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Federal workers say it's 'demoralizing' to work without paycheck

Posted at 3:46 PM, Jan 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-22 17:32:49-05

SUBURBAN WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.-- Some TSA and Air Traffic Controller representatives are speaking out about their struggles during the government shutdown, calling it 'demoralizing' to work without a paycheck.

Federal employees who work to keep us safe at the airport say the shutdown is taking its toll on morale among workers, as they struggle to pay their bills. It could even lead to longer wait times for you as fewer employees work to maintain the same level of safety.

TSA, Air Traffic Control, and others shared their frustrations at a round table meeting with Congresswoman Lois Frankel on Tuesday.

TSA Agent and Union Vice President Mickey Alston says: "It's a trickle-down effect, people can’t pay mortgages, people cant provide for babies, they cant provide for self and family, the list goes on and on."

She shared the story of one TSA employee who just returned from maternity leave and had to send her baby to live with a family member out of state because she couldn't afford formula and diapers.

"We just need the shut down to end and end quickly," she says. "It's not just 800,000 people not getting paid, it's 800,000 people not being able to provide for self and family."

She says while it is hurting morale, workers continue to do their jobs. "We do come to work, we’re gonna keep coming until we can’t anymore, we can’t make it there. But we’re wearing a smile on our face because we are protecting the public, however it's stressful, it's very stressful. Other people’s lives are actually in our hands so you need it to be non-stressful, the job itself is already stressful."

Alston adds, "we feel disrespected, it's demeaning, we get a lot of flying public saying 'thank you for coming to work, thank you for still being here, I’m sorry that you have to go through this, we appreciate your time and service,' and that’s good."

Air Traffic Controller Daniel Garcia-Barbon shared similar frustrations among employees in his field. "Rent, mortgage, gas, groceries, some of these payments don’t wait until the government reopens."

He called it "demoralizing" and "embarassing" to work without a paycheck. "You go to work everyday and now you are trying to figure out how you are going to pay for gas to get to work," he says.

And that worry is a distraction in an already high-stress job. "I’ve had multiple members in my facility (Miami) and nearby that have contacted me to ask about taking up second jobs and I’m getting put in a tough position. I understand they need to feed their families and provide for their families, at the same time I have to tell them they have to come to work 100% ready to go. We live in a mistake free environment in air traffic control, we have to 100% right, 100% of the time. I don’t want my air traffic controller coming into work and he just got off a shift driving for Uber or Lyft or he leaves work on a night shift and then goes to drive for Uber or Lyft or goes to wait tables and doesn’t get a full night’s rest and has to come to work the next day," he says.

He says it could impact the public as well, as they try to do more with less. "You’re going to see longer wait times on the ground in order to keep the number of airplanes each air traffic controller can control safely, we have to keep that number, so airplanes will be delayed to maintain safety."

Mickey Alston adds some employees are considering quitting because they need a job that pays the bills. "At this point on a personal level, I don’t care what the politics do, what they go left and right, I just want them to open the government."

She says most TSA employees make about $30-$50,000 a year and don't have big savings accounts to help them through times like this. While they are very grateful for donations from the community, she says it is not enough to completely take care of the almost 300 TSA agents at Palm Beach International Airport.