TSA agents quit amid shut­down — but not Braden­ton

The Bradenton Herald - - Front Page - BY JARED GIL­MOUR [email protected]

Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion agents are quit­ting and call­ing in sick as the week­s­long gov­ern­ment shut­down forces them to work with­out pay, cre­at­ing long se­cu­rity lines and lo­gis­ti­cal trou­bles na­tion­wide.

But not ev­ery­where: Se­cu­rity screen­ings are con­tin­u­ing with­out a hitch at a hand­ful of air­ports, from San Fran­cisco and Kansas City to Braden­ton. That’s be­cause pri­vate com­pa­nies pro­vide screen­ings there in­stead of fed­eral TSA agents. And those agents are still get­ting pay­checks.

“This is not hav­ing an ef­fect,” Fredrick Pic­colo, pres­i­dent and CEO for the Sara­sota Braden­ton In­ter­na­tional Air­port, said in a phone in­ter­view. “They’re get­ting paid.”

TSA lists nearly two dozen U.S. air­ports that par­tic­i­pate in the Screen­ing Part­ner­ship Pro­gram, which al­lows com­mer­cial air­ports to ap­ply for the op­por­tu­nity to use qual­i­fied pri­vate com­pa­nies for their se­cu­rity. Air­ports in At­lantic City, New Jer­sey; Boze­man, Mon­tana; and Key West, Florida, all par­tic­i­pate.

Pic­colo said the air­port switched to se­cu­rity com­pany Trin­ity Tech­nol­ogy Group a few years ago af­ter the air­port board had a “philo­soph­i­cal dis­cus­sion” and de­cided the pri­vate sec­tor might be more ef­fec­tive than fed­eral agents. The screen­ing process is al­most iden­ti­cal to­day, ac­cord­ing to Pic­colo: TSA chose the se­cu­rity com­pany, and now the fed­eral agency su­per­vises the com­pany and pays its con­tract.

“The only thing the air­port gets to do is say: We’d like to have pri­vate se­cu­rity do this job,” Pic­colo said. “Every­thing’s

al­most the same, out­side of the uni­form.”

Pri­vate se­cu­rity agents are also help­ing Kansas City’s air­port weather the par­tial shut­down, which came about af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump re­fused to sign a fund­ing bill that didn’t in­clude bil­lions for a bor­der wall.

“There is no im­pact of the gov­ern­ment shut­down at Kansas City In­ter­na­tional Air­port,” spokesman Joe McBride said in an email on Wed­nes­day, adding that Akal Se­cu­rity pro­vides the screen­ings. “That con­tract is funded so Akal em­ploy­ees are be­ing paid.”

Same goes in San Fran­cisco.

“The cur­rent con­trac­tor for the TSA here is Covenant Avi­a­tion Se­cu­rity,” SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said, ac­cord­ing to SFGate. “Those em­ploy­ees con­tinue to be paid, so no im­pact here.”

Mean­while, Mi­ami’s air­port is shut­ting off one of its ter­mi­nals on Satur­day so TSA can bet­ter han­dle lines at the mos­tused check­points, the Mi­ami Her­ald re­ports. An air­port spokesman told the Her­ald that TSA agents are call­ing in sick in num­bers twice as high as usual.

The Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees, the union rep­re­sent­ing more than 44,000 of the coun­try’s 50,000 TSA of­fi­cers, said it has sued the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for forc­ing agents to work with­out pay. TSA agents have been re­quired to work with­out pay since the shut­down be­gan Dec. 22 be­cause they are con­sid­ered “es­sen­tial” work­ers; fed­eral em­ploy­ees in the un­funded agen­cies con­sid­ered non-es­sen­tial aren’t be­ing paid but aren’t be­ing asked to work.

“Ev­ery day I’m get­ting calls from my mem­bers about their ex­treme fi­nan­cial hard­ships and need for a pay­check,” Hy­drick Thomas, TSA Coun­cil pres­i­dent for AFGE, said in a state­ment about the shut­down’s im­pact on the agency. “Some of them have al­ready quit and many are con­sid­er­ing quit­ting the fed­eral work­force be­cause of this shut­down.”

Pic­colo said that while the Sara­sota-Braden­ton air­port’s se­cu­rity screen­ings cur­rently aren’t im­pacted, that could change if the par­tial shut­down drags on in­def­i­nitely and the con­trac­tor, Trin­ity, doesn’t get its lump-sum pay­ment from TSA for se­cu­rity ser­vices.

La­bor unions ar­gue that there are draw­backs to pri­vate se­cu­rity — and that “the real rea­son air­ports want to go with con­trac­tors is sim­ple: to cut costs,” Mar­ket­place re­ported in 2016.

“We be­lieve that na­tional se­cu­rity should be a fed­eral gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tion and not turned over to for-profit pri­vate com­pa­nies,” said James Mu­drock, pres­i­dent of AFGE Lo­cal 1230, which rep­re­sents TSA work­ers in Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, ac­cord­ing to Mar­ket­place.

Se­cu­rity agents aren’t the only air­port work­ers im­pacted by the gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Fed­eral avi­a­tion in­spec­tors, whose roles are clas­si­fied as “non-es­sen­tial,” have been off the job since the shut­down be­gan, the Mi­ami Her­ald re­ports.

“We are an­other layer of safety,” said Troy Tomey, a 52-year-old in­spec­tor in South Florida, ac­cord­ing to the Her­ald. “We’re the last check of the box. Tak­ing us out of it, mis­takes can hap­pen.”

Tomey said that the day be­fore the shut­down the tail and wing of two cargo planes col­lided on the ground at Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Air­port — and that fed­eral in­spec­tors caught dam­age that the air­line missed, and re­ported it to the plane’s man­u­fac­turer, the Her­ald re­ports. Be­cause Tomey is fur­loughed, he said he can’t make sure the planes are ac­tu­ally fixed.

“I’m 99.9 per­cent sure they did, but we don’t know,” Tomey said, ac­cord­ing to the Her­ald. “Now they’re back in the air fly­ing.”

ERIC RISBERG AP

Pas­sen­gers make their way through a TSA Precheck se­cu­rity line in­side Ter­mi­nal 2 of San Fran­cisco In­ter­na­tional Air­port in San Fran­cisco in 2016.

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