TSA screener with 7-month-old: It's getting harder each day

Wednesday, January 16, 2019
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Government shutdown

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The lines at Philadelphia International Airport were moving on Day 25 of the government shutdown, with every person and their carry-on bags being carefully inspected by the furloughed workers who are necessary for safe air travel in this country: Transportation Security Administration employees.

Due to the ongoing shutdown, those men and women missed a paycheck on Saturday.

Tyrone Sharper is one of the many TSA screeners wondering how to make it through. He has a wife and 7-month-old child.

"It sets us back and we have to figure out a way to pretty much pay those bills," Sharper said.

In addition to having to juggle the bills, Sharper and his wife had a bad feeling early on there could be a shutdown and they wouldn't be getting paid.

"Because I knew this was coming, I planned for that, so my wife and I were able to do some food shopping before the last paycheck ran out," Sharper said.

He says the hardest part is getting up at 2:30 a.m. to be at be at the airport to begin his shift at 4 a.m. and knowing he's not going to get a paycheck.

Sharper says the politicians in Washington don't seem to understand what's really going on.

"So with them not doing that, it's been hard. It's getting harder each day to get up at that time of the morning and leave my family when I'm not getting paid for it," Sharper said.

In an extraordinary move, Catholic Social Services provided a whole pallet of canned goods Tuesday to helped furloughed TSA workers.

"That's a whole lot of food, but it's probably going to go quick," TSA Union President Joe Shuker said.

Philabundance is also working to distribute food to TSA employees who need the extra help.

Unlike other major airports that have seen long lines and delays due to screeners calling out sick, that has not been the case yet at Philadelphia International Airport.

Shuker takes pride knowing that TSA screeners in Philadelphia were rated number one in the country last year.

"We were rated number one and it's because of the officers here, the work they do, and their dedication. Our officers still come to work until they can't," Shuker said.

TSA Philadelphia Director Gary Renfrow calls this "unchartered territory" for federal employees.

"We've lived through shutdowns in the past, but this one is actually affecting people at the end of the day, and it will begin to affect Americans I think at some point," Renfrow said.

So for the time being, TSA officials are urging air travelers to treat flying right now as if it were a holiday. You should come early and be prepared for a wait.


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