Miami airport terminal closing early as screeners call in sick

Miami airport terminal closing early as screeners call in sick

As the government shutdown continues to stretch on, Pittsburgh International Airport has made a decision to provide an act of kindness to the TSA agents working without pay right now.

Rep. Donna Shalala, newly elected to a Miami district, cited the planned closing of a Pizza Hut in MIA's Terminal G Saturday afternoon as one of the ripple effects from a partial shutdown that's about to be the longest in US history.

Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, which represents 32 unions that cover transportation workers, said he thinks the nation's transportation system is now safe and would not recommend that people avoid flying.

"Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown", AFGE TSA Council president Hydrick Thomas said in a statement on the AFGE website.

Terminal G, used by United, Bahamasair and other airlines, will reopen for morning flights on Sunday.

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Miami International spokesman Greg Chin said the airport has had TSA workers call in sick at twice the usual rate, and TSA managers were unsure whether they would have enough staff to operate the airport's 11 checkpoints during normal operating hours.

Flights that usually leave from that terminal will use gates elsewhere in the airport. They predicted no disruption from the changes.

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The TSA says their security protocols have not been compromised and will not be compromised because of the government shutdown.

But he said safety is an "ongoing mission", and every day the shutdown drags on is a cause for concern. Wait times are already up at many airports as some screeners call out sick, rather than work without pay.

"I get nervous on flights and having them there really makes there makes me feel more comfortable", said Kyle Gorman.

"Staffing for air traffic control is at a 30-year low", she said. "We fear even more of the airport will close", she said.

Among the more than 400,000 federal workers who are working without pay are employees who have a direct involvement in aviation and air travel: TSA screeners, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, and air traffic controllers. Friday was the first time since the partial shutdown began December 22 that a payday arrived with affected workers receiving no compensation.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said that requiring 16,000 controllers to work without pay violates their constitutional rights and a federal wage law in a lawsuit in federal court in Washington D.C.

"No employee can be expected to work indefinitely without pay", Thompson said.

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