As the government shutdown continues to drag on, TSA screeners at O’Hare International Airport are still required to show up for work, even as they continue to go without paychecks.
The screener agents are among thousands of federal workers considered “essential employees” during a shutdown, meaning they are required to show up for duty whether they’re paid or not.
“The president says the shutdown is all about the security of the United States,” Senator Dick Durbin said. “We’re not a more secure nation when TSA is not fully staffed and fully paid for what they are doing.”
Airports are now dealing with an increase in sick calls from TSA screeners, as some workers are opting to call off sick so they can find other odd jobs that will pay them to keep making ends meet.
Unscheduled absences among TSA agents hit 5.1 percent nationwide on Thursday, an uptick from 3.3 percent on the same date last year.
The agency says that wait times have not been negatively impacted by the increase in sick calls, but travellers are still planning their trips with the possibility of delays in mind.
“We tried to plan in advance and get here as early as we could, but I know they’re doing the best they can to get us through,” one flyer said.
Travellers expressed their appreciation for the work of the TSA, as agents continue to do their jobs with no end to the shutdown in sight.
“It’s incredible that they’re out here still doing their job,” Blair Plotte said. “It’s amazing that they’re doing that for everyone trying to travel.”