California Will Make Illegal Unemployment Payments to TSA Screeners as Wait Times Worsen

TSA is telling individual airports not to reveal the percentage of screeners calling in sick. An internal email instructs airports,

You can say you have experienced higher numbers of call outs but in partnership with the airport and airlines you are able to manage people and resources to ensure effective security is always maintained.

Austin PreCheck

Nationally though they’re releasing airport wait time statistics and those are bad – very bad. It’s a good thing for Southwest they’re no longer giving out points to passengers who have to wait 10 minutes or more at security.

Major airports generally had double digit wait times, some had double digit wait times at PreCheck and Atlanta, Denver, Newark and Seattle all had wait times over 30 minutes at regular security. Just because TSA says their standard metric is 30 minutes doesn’t make it acceptable. The immense value of time wasted is a drag on the economy.

TSA flew screeners in from around the country to work at Newark because of sick outs there.

And the Governor of California is encouraging TSA workers to claim unemployment benefits in his state despite guidance from the US Department of Labor saying it’s not legal to offer such payments.

[T]he newly elected governor urged workers to take advantage of the offer he announced last week: Collect unemployment insurance benefits from the California Employment Development Department, regardless of instructions from President Donald Trump’s Labor Department a day earlier that states can’t legally offer the benefits.

..[Governor] Newsom said the letter from the U.S. Labor Department, which was sent to leaders from eight states who inquired about helping unpaid federal workers, was “in essence telling us that we can’t do what we’re doing.”

“The good news is we’re going to do it,” Newsom continued. “And shame on them.”

Of course “when they receive back pay after the shutdown ends, they’re required to repay the state.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The fact that Dept. of Labor says the payments are illegal doesn’t make them illegal. If it comes to it, the courts will make that determination. We’ve seen many cases over the years of the Executive Branch (under Presidents of both parties) incorrectly interpreting the law.

  2. EWR Precheck wait times before the shut down were easily 15 to 20 mins on a normal afternoon, at least in the United terminal.

  3. I agree with Jerry. I wouldn’t trust the Department of Labor under an anti-worker administration like this one (or any Republican one, for that matter).

    Anyway, perhaps it’s useful for TSA-haters to see what happens when the TSA doesn’t ACTUALLY do its job. It may make some of you appreciate them a little more,

  4. How about cutting off the pay in congress until the shutdown is over? I bet you would see negotiations damn fast if that happened.

  5. A Hawaiian judge has already indicated he’s willing to basically rule in favor of whatever will accommodate this. This is a good thing for California.

  6. I have had no issues the past two weeks. TSA has been fast and fine. However, my opinion? They should all walk off and shut the whole system down. Nothing will force centrist compromise faster than the world’s largest economy completely unable to move.

  7. @Jerry is correct. In addition, in shutdowns past, federal workers were always told they were ELIGIBLE for unemployment benefits, but would have to repay the funds back if they received back pay.

    Since all feds (not necessarily contractors) will receive back pay, because of a law signed during the shutdown, this may be the basis of the Labor Department’s new guidance.

    However, that doesn’t necessarily make it so. Worst case, it’s an interest free loan when a lot of people could really use one.

  8. Pretty much any law abiding US citizen can qualify for precheck (well at least when the government reopens). So only a rube will wait in the long lines.

  9. Hey if they end up having to pay it back out of back pay then it amounts to a zero interest loan. I see nothing wrong with that They are all just innocent victims. Nothing wrong to help people put food on their table in tough situations.

  10. I can already see it now. They collect unemployment then they pass a bill where they do not have to pay it back. In the end they get their pay plus unemployment and for non critical federal workers also a lot of free vacation time.

    Once again the taxpayer takes the hit.

    Please do not tell me they are working for free like the media says. They are working for a DELAYED paycheck. Yes it stinks and creates hardships, but it is very different than working for free.

    Also, calling in sick serves no financial purpose. They are using their sick time that they may need later (non work injury, pregnancy, etc.) or possible get paid for when they leave. It could be an expensive “statement” later for them.

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