Transportation Security Administration reported a national absence rate of 6.8 percent on Monday, compared with 2.5 percent on the same day last year
Officials declined to provide specific absence figures, citing security risks
Given that there are some 51,000 screeners are employed by the TSA, the nationwide absentee rate Monday likely exceeded 3,800
Monday marked the first business day after security screeners saw their first missed paycheck since the shutdown began in late December
Travelers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest, have been warned to arrive three hours early amid long security checkpoint lines
Airports in Houston, Miami, and Washington had to close checkpoints this week
A New York Times opinion piece on Monday urged TSA workers to go on strike, though such action is illegal for federal employees
Published: 13:32 EST, 14 January 2019 | Updated: 19:26 EST, 15 January 2019
The number of security screeners failing to show up for work across the US has tripled in the fourth week of the partial government shutdown.
The Transportation Security Administration reported a national absence rate of 6.8 percent - about one in 13 - on Monday, to a 2.5 percent rate one year ago on the same day.
Monday marked the first business day after security screeners saw their first missed paycheck since the shutdown began.
TSA officials remain concerned they could soon reach a 'tipping point' where large numbers of their agents quit and look for paid work elsewhere.
A New York Times opinion piece published this week suggested that employees should go on strike to send a message to lawmakers and President Trump - though such action would be illegal.
In the meantime, travelers have been advised to get to the airport three hours early amid nightmarish security lines.
At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest, some passengers have had to wait more than an hour to get through checkpoints.
'It's chaos out here,' passenger Vincent Smith said as he stood in a line that snaked through the Atlanta airport's atrium and baggage claim areas. 'This line, I've been here about 15 minutes and it has moved two feet.'
In a statement Tuesday morning, TSA officials said: 'Nationwide, TSA screened 1.89 million passengers yesterday. Overall, 99.1 percent of passengers waited less than 30 minutes; 94.3 percent of passengers less than 15 minutes. In TSA Pre Check lanes, passengers on average waited less than 10 minutes.'
Travelers have been advised to get to the airport three hours early as a record number of security screeners fail to show up for work across the US in the fourth week of the partial government shutdown. Hour-plus wait times have been reported at security checkpoints at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, the world's busiest airport (above)
Passengers can be seen making their way to a security checkpoint on Tuesday at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, where one terminal remains closed for the third day
The United Express terminal at Houston's George Bush International Airport remained closed for a third day on Tuesday.
Passengers must go through checkpoints in other terminals, then walk or take a train to planes parked at Terminal B. A spokesman for United Airlines said flights were not affected.
'Advice to always get to @iah 2 hours before your flight is especially important today,' Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted Sunday.
'Shortage of TSA workers, unpaid during the US gov’t shutdown, is causing this change.'
Miami International Airport was forced to close one of its concourses for half the day on Saturday and Sunday due to 'unscheduled absences'.
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TSA officials included a list of average Monday wait times across all major US airports in a news release announcing that 99.1 percent of passengers waited less than 30 minutes. The worst wait times were recorded in Atlanta and Dallas
About a dozen afternoon and evening flights each day were diverted to other concourses so that TSA workers could adequately staff the other checkpoints.
The TSA is working with airports and airlines nationwide to consolidate operations and 'maximize all available operational resources', spokesman Jim Gregory said.
Gregory declined to provide absentee figures for Atlanta or other airports, saying that would compromise security by exposing possible vulnerabilities.
'Screeners will not do anything to compromise or change their security procedures,' Gregory said.
Given that there are some 51,000 screeners are employed by the TSA, the nationwide absentee rate Monday likely exceeded 3,800.
Airport officials have warned that the TSA situation will get much worse if the shutdown isn’t resolved soon.
Miami International Airport closed down one concourse for most of Saturday and Sunday due to TSA agent shortages. The concourse's security checkpoint is seen closed here on Saturday
Some passengers were diverted from Concourse G to F, where long lines were seen Sunday
Smith, the Atlanta passenger, said he could relate to government workers who don't show up so they can find other ways to make ends meet.
'If I was a government worker, yes, I would probably call in and try to do something else because creditors don't care if you're furloughed or not,' Smith said. 'They just want to get paid and with a family of six, you have to do what you have to.'
One 11-year TSA employee at Washington Dulles International Airport in DC is living with a negative balance in his bank account as a result of the missed paycheck.
The employee, who asked to remain anonymous, told CNN: 'I'm stuck.
'When you are the head of the household, family is looking up to you to provide, but at the same time, I'm not able to fulfill that role.'
The employee said his family has enough food to last about two weeks, but he did not know what they would do when it runs out.
He also said that he doesn't have enough gas to make it in to work.
'I can't go nowhere,' the employee said. 'I only have half a tank of gas, and I am just keeping it for an emergency.'
When asked who he blamed for the shutdown, the employee said: 'I'm more blaming the President, because he is not representing his position as President.'
Food banks have popped up in Chicago, Tampa, and Phoenix to help TSA employees who missed their first paycheck of the shutdown on Friday. TSA worker Ebony Grays wipes away tears after receiving food at the Lakeview Pantry in Chicago on Monday
Grays is one of thousands of federal employees who turned up at food banks this week
The help comes amid ongoing reports of airport delays across the country as TSA employees continue call in sick so they can look for alternative ways to pay their bills
Food banks have popped up in Chicago, Tampa, and Phoenix to help TSA employees who are continuing to work without pay during the government shutdown.
Tampa International Airport joined forces with Feeding Tampa Bay and United Way Suncoast to set up a food bank for federal employees on Monday after they missed their first paycheck of the year.
The bank provided food and toiletries for TSA workers, as well as US Customs and Border Protection and Federal Aviation Administration employees.
All three agencies are required to work during the shutdown as they are considered essential employees.
'We're glad we're able to help,' Tampa International Airport spokesman Emily Nipps told the Huffington Post.
Nipps said the food bank received 60 visitors in less than two hours and that local residents are dropping off donations for TSA workers.
The food bank will remain open until Saturday and can be accessed by workers with a valid ID.
Federal employees at Tampa Airport have also been given 31-day bus passes thanks to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit and local electricity companies are working to help pay their utility bills.
A mobile food pantry was also set up by St Mary's Food Bank at the TSA's offices in Phoenix on Monday.
Nearly 300 employees arrived at the bank, which handed out 10,000 pounds of food that included everything from canned goods to fresh produce.
One hundred emergency food packages were sent to McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville after receiving an 'unprecedented' request from the local American Federation of Government Employees to help TSA workers.
Over in Boston a pop-up food pantry served 400 families of members of the Coast Guard, while in Washington DC famous Spanish chef Jose Andres announced he will open a World Central Kitchen feeding site for federal workers.
Long security lines snake around a terminal at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Monday, the 25th day of the shutdown
Air travelers endured waits of over an hour to get through domestic checkpoints in Atlanta
TSA officials are hopeful that the shutdown will be resolved before Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has to handle traffic from the Super Bowl on February 3 in Atlanta
An official with the union representing TSA workers said TSA canceled employees' vacation requests about a week ago.
'Since nobody is getting paid, [TSA officials] don't want them to take annual leave,' said Cairo D'Almeida, president of a government workers' union local in Seattle.
Gregory said that was not a TSA decision. Under guidelines from the federal Office of Personnel Management, paid time off is canceled for employees, including the airport screeners, who are exempt from certain federal labor laws.
A New York Times opinion piece published Monday called for TSA employees to stand up and strike, though taking such action would be illegal.
Columnist Barbara Ehrenreich wrote: 'The time has come for a genuine, old-fashioned strike, one with picket lines, chants, quickened pulses and the power to reignite the traditional fighting spirit of American labor.'
However, upon being hired, all federal employees take an oath declaring: 'I am not participating in any strike against the Government of the United States or any agency thereof, and I will not so participate while an employee of the Government of the United States or any agency thereof.'
Customer Service representative Magda Lambo, center, directs travelers as security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta stretch more than an hour long
There were at least six lanes closed at domestic terminal security checkpoints on Monday
Instead, many TSA agents could decide to quit so they can find other jobs to pay their bills.
The president of the American Federation for Government Employees' TSA council said in a statement last week that some workers had quit and many were thinking about quitting 'because of this shutdown'.
'The loss of officers, while we're already shorthanded, will create a massive security risk for American travelers since we don't have enough trainees in the pipeline or the ability to process new hires,' Hydrick Thomas, the AFGE TSA union leader, said.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative Dan McCabe echoed those concerns, telling CNN: 'Every day, every minute this goes on, the system degrades a little bit -- a little bit more than it was a minute ago.
'We can't sustain this as a country.'
In Atlanta, Monday's long wait times come with less than three weeks remaining before the city hosts one of the world's biggest sporting events.
Super Bowl 53 on February 3 is expected to bring hordes of travelers to Atlanta for the game and days of concerts and related events.
'We're confident that we will be as efficient and as welcoming as people expect the city of Atlanta to be here at Hartsfield-Jackson for the Super Bowl,' airport spokesman Andrew Gobeil said.
Federal judge considers ordering Trump to pay employees who say they're now SLAVES working for free during shutdown
Judge Richard Leon decided Tuesday that he won't intervene in the 25-day-old government shutdown, refusing to force the Trump administration to release 780,000 unpaid federal workers from employment limbo
A federal judge decided Tuesday that he won't intervene in the 25-day-old government shutdown, refusing to force the Trump administration to release 780,000 unpaid federal workers from employment limbo.
Judge Richard Leon denied petitions from two government employees' unions and their members for a temporary restraining order that would have ended the practice of making some workers perform their duties without salaries and requiring others to stay home without earning money at other jobs.
Leon said after hearing oral arguments that he sympathized with out-of-work federal employees. But the shutdown 'squabble,' he ruled, shouldn't be solved by using federal courts as a source of leverage by one side of a dispute against another.
Some workers claim Trump is violating their Fifth Amendment rights by taking their property – their salaries – without due process. Others say he's unconstitutionally treating them like slaves, forcing them to work for free without sufficient reason.
The National Treasury Employees Union and National Air Traffic Controllers Association say forcing government employees to work without pay violates the U.S. Constitution and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The air traffic controllers' lawsuit contends that government employees' salaries are their 'property,' and depriving them of that compensation without a sufficient reason runs counter to the Fifth Amendment's guarantee that no one can be 'deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.'
Their members, the union said, shouldn't be 'distracted by financial issues ... caused by the government's unlawful taking of their property without due process.'
780,000 federal workers have been off payroll since December 21; about half have been forced to come to work anyway since their jobs are considered 'essential' government functions
A group of five individual plaintiffs also sued under the 13th Amendment, declaring that being forced to work without a predictable payroll is a violation of the 13th Amendment's prohibition of slavery.
They claim the government has threatened to punish 'essential' employees if they don't show up to work despite not being paid, and that those sent home will be fired if they find other paid employment while they wait for the nation's longest-ever shutdown to end.
Separately, the Treasury workers' union says Trump is violating the Anti-Deficiency Act, a 149-year-old law that prevents federal agencies from spending money Congress hasn't allotted to them.
The law, passed during the Ulysses Grant administration, allows for the government to keep running, without funding, in the case of 'emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.'
Congress added new language to it in 1990, saying that definition did not include 'ongoing, regular functions of government' unless life or property is threatened.
The union says the White House is illegally lumping ordinary government tasks, like processing tax returns, in with vital functions like military defense in order to avoid a public backlash.
Judge Leon, a George W. Bush appointee, consolidated all the cases and heard oral arguments Tuesday in Washington.
The National Treasury Employees Union represents more than 150,000 federal workers in 33 separate agencies. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has 15,000 members and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
Treasury union president Tony Reardon said last week in a press release that '[i]f employees are working, they must be paid – and if there is not money to pay them, then they should not be working.'
Congress has already passed, and Trump has signed, legislation requiring back-pay disbursements for affected federal employees as soon as the shutdown is over.
Reporting by David Martosko, US Political Editor for DailyMail.com
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