TSA agents working without pay during shutdown are calling in sick

Hundreds of Transportation Security Administration officers have called in sick this week from at least four major U.S. airports as they work without pay during a partial government shutdown that's now in its 14th day, according to CNN.

“This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect,” Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN.

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A TSA spokesperson acknowledged that absences have increased recently, but insisted security will not be affected.

"Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change," the spokesperson said Friday in a statement to The Hill. "Wait times may be affected depending on the number of call outs."

The spokesperson added that "screening wait times remain well within TSA standards" and that 99.8 percent of more than 2.2 million passengers on Thursday had wait times of less than 30 minutes.

The worker absences are reportedly affecting New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and the Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham airports in North Carolina.

“This problem of call outs is really going to explode over the next week or two when employees miss their first paycheck,” a union official at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport told CNN. “TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs.”

The call outs may be in protest against a paycheck delay caused by the TSA’s lapse in funding during the partial government shutdown, CNN said, citing two sources.

A union official told the cable news network that officers are calling out sick for practical reasons, such as not being able to afford child care while their paychecks are delayed.

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees TSA, and several other departments lapsed on Dec. 22. About 55,000 TSA employees, who screen about 800 million airplane passengers each year, are considered essential employees and are required to work without pay.

“We’ve never had a situation where officers did not get paid,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske told reporters last month.

To cover the gaps, officials told CNN airports have several options, including employing fewer random pat-down security checks, allowing passengers who have not been vetted for the PreCheck program to be screened more quickly or loosening standards for checking in bags, though there are no indications any of these measures have been implemented.

The shutdown has dragged on as the White House and congressional Democrats are unable to reach an agreement funding for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE's proposed border wall.

Trump said Friday he is demanding $5.6 billion as part of any legislation to end the shutdown, but House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Pelosi hits Trump, Netanyahu for 'weakness' amid tensions over Omar and Tlaib In Hong Kong, the need for peaceful persistence MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down Trump ahead of New Hampshire speech: Lewandowski would be 'fantastic' senator MORE (D-N.Y.) have said they would not agree to those terms.

Approximately 25 percent of the government shuttered on Dec. 22, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce, Justice, Interior and State. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been furloughed or required to work without pay for the time being.

Updated at 6:03 p.m.