By Andrew Theen

The Oregonian

Despite shutdown, TSA still efficient

The TSA screened 2.2 million passengers across the country Sunday with 99.8 percent waiting less than 30 minutes, according to spokesperson Michael Bilello. Nine out of 10 passengers were screened in less than 15 minutes, with average wait times for Precheck lanes of less than five minutes, he said.

The latest numbers came after a flurry of news reports over the weekend about increasing numbers of TSA workers calling in sick as they work without pay.

At Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, the number of TSA workers calling in sick increased from the typical 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent on Friday, Bilello tweeted Friday evening. News reports have suggested an increased number of TSA workers calling in at other airports around the country.

The TSA maintained that security standards and effectiveness will not be compromised during the shutdown. Unions representing air traffic controllers and Customs and Border Protection workers said they had not seen a noticeable increase in employees calling in sick.

— The Dallas Morning News

More than 700 air traffic controllers and security officers continue to work at airports across Oregon with no assurance of their next paycheck as the federal government shutdown hit the 18-day mark Tuesday.

Some workers are growing increasingly worried.

Transportation Security Administration staffers at Portland International Airport are circulating among colleagues information about how to file for unemployment.

Union officials are directing the 380 TSA workers at the airport to local food pantries or grief counseling services as needed.

If the federal government can’t pass a funding bill this week, the questions and concerns will only compound.

Union leaders said the timing couldn’t be worse, as some workers expect to miss their first paycheck as soon as Friday if politicians don’t act.

“People joke around about walking out,” said Joe Lowry, political coordinator for the TSA’s union in Portland, “but we can’t do that.”

The TSA employees are classified as “essential” personnel and are blocked from striking and must show up to work despite the shutdown. The Port of Portland, which owns and operates the airport, said the facility continues to work smoothly.

Greg Biel, president of the American Federation of Government Employee’s TSA branch in Portland, said nerves are tightening.

“The fear is as this continues,” Biel said at a news conference in Portland, “they may have to go seek other employment.” He said that is the situation for 20 managers at PDX who aren’t part of the union and are at home on unpaid leave.

Eddie DeLisle, the Pacific Northwest regional vice president of the air traffic controllers union, said his workforce totals about 125 in Oregon. The majority, 80, help passenger planes and cargo shipments take off and land safely at PDX.

DeLisle said the job is “inherently stressful,” and now employees have the added burden of wondering if a paycheck will land in coming days.

Members keep asking when the shutdown will end and what happens if they aren’t paid.

“It’s unfortunate to have no answers to either question,” he said.

DeLisle said his workers’ situations aren’t quite as grim as TSA workers, whose representatives told stories of selling plasma to make ends meet.

“I don’t know too many people who live better than paycheck to paycheck,” he said.