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In San Diego, hundreds of TSA employees impacted by the shutdown's squeeze

Posted at 11:06 AM, Jan 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-05 20:38:49-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Hundreds of Transportation Security Administration workers in San Diego are just some of the local federal workers impacted by the government shutdown.

Of the more than 3,000 TSA employees between San Diego and San Luis Obispo represented by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1260, about 600 employees work in San Diego, the union told 10News.

The impact of the shutdown has been "immense" on many employees, AFGE says.

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"The impact has obviously been immense, especially considering it began during the holiday season and into the new year when many employees had already purchased gifts for their families, incurred debts, and still had to worry about upcoming bills," AFGE Vice President Bobby Orozco Jr. says.

Orozco pointed to the fact many federal employees live paycheck-to-paycheck as a cause for concern, noting that TSA frontline employees make an average of $40,000 annually. Daily expenses like buying gas, lunch, and affording child care are some of the immediate impacts employees are facing.

10News spoke to several TSA workers at San Diego International Airport off-camera, who said they, too, feel the pinch. One man said he was one of the fortunate people who have family support in case of an emergency. But his co-workers are not so lucky. Another employee told 10News that he is struggling as he enters his third week without a paycheck. Unable to pay his bills, he is charging everything onto new credit cards.

"This shutdown, as all others prior, forces employees to use credit cards and other emergency funds, if applicable, in order to make ends meet until a resolution is met," Orozco said. "Additionally, it causes undue financial hardships, such as accrued interests on credit card payments, small loans, and defaults on bills—all of which cost the employee more later."

RELATED: Government shutdown affecting air travel, national park safety

The government shutdown has left thousands of government workers around the U.S. furloughed or working without pay as lawmakers debate spending bills to reopen the government. President Donald Trump has said he will not reopen the government until his calls of $5.6 billion for a border wall are met by Congress. Democratic lawmakers have yet to voice any plans to meet the President's demand.

While the D.C. tug-o-war continues, Orozco says financial hardships will put TSA workers into a tighter spot — financially and mentally.

"This is not to mention the mental stress and anxiety of worrying when ones next paycheck will come, while still serving the American public in a vital position. AFGE Local 1260 is hopeful that Congress will stop playing with Federal employees' livelihoods by using us as political pawns," Orozco said.

RELATED: Government shutdown: How San Diego is affected

CNN reported Friday that hundreds of TSA workers required to work without pay at four major airports have called out from work this week. Call-outs at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport increased by 200-300 percent, according to one local TSA official.

Some are calling this phenomenon the "Blue flu," in reference to the TSA uniform colors. 10News asked TSA workers here if they were seeing an increased number of call-outs recently. A few people said they had not noticed a drastic difference, but come next week, it may be a different story.

While wait times could be affected by an increase in call outs, TSA spokesman Michael Bilello told CNN they don't expect a lapse in security or wait times.

"Call-outs began over the Holiday period and have increased, but are causing minimal impact given there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process," Bilello told CNN. "Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change."

Union officials told CNN the call outs were not part of an organized action, but could increase as the shutdown persists.