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Some Fear TSA Screeners Might Quit If Pay Stops Coming Due To Government Shutdown

CHICAGO (CBS) -- On day 16 of the government shutdown, a growing number of TSA screeners are calling in sick, raising concerns of longer wait times and missed flights in the days ahead.

Some 300 TSA agents work at Midway and another 1500 work at O'Hare, but union leaders say the sick calls were normal Monday. Consequently, the lines leading to checkpoints are moving.

tsa screeners working on day 16 of the government shutdown 2
TSA screeners working at Midway on day 16 of the government shutdown. (CBS)

A quick check with passengers from other cities tells a similar story.

"It really wasn't that bad," Todd Heatwole said. "I expected worse. There was only one line unless you were pre-check in Baltimore."

"I was coming from a pretty small airport, so the TSA experience was functioning more or less at capacity," Reid Thurston said. "I think one of the agents made a pretty sly joke about, 'Hey, we're moving faster than Congress."

Some passengers traveling through Midway admitted they expected delays.

"I thought about it, but I looked at the lines online and it didn't seem like they were any longer than typical. But I did think about it. It was a factor when I was planning," Justin Fister said.

The news was good everywhere. Cities like New York, Dallas and Seattle saw a modest increase in sick calls from screeners.

However, there are concerns everywhere, including Chicago, that sick calls will increase if the shutdown drags into next week.

One source says an even bigger concern is that new agents will quit. The fear is that they won't have the patience or the commitment to do the job without a paycheck.

So far screeners have not missed a paycheck, but in order to make Saturday's payroll the shutdown must end Tuesday.


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