HOUSTON (FOX 26) - It's been more than one month since the partial government shutdown began, and the Transportation Security Administration is seeing an increase in unscheduled absences.
Terminal B at Bush Intercontinental Airport remains closed, as quite a few TSA employees have been missing work.
Despite that, the airport is not in bad shape. TSA data shows Monday’s longest wait time at Bush was just 18 minutes. Lines were free-flowing Tuesday too.
“I was stressed out to lose my flight,” said Ricardo Velasquez before going through security on his flight back home to Mexico.
He says the government shutdown had him concerned about potential security delays.
“I skipped breakfast and I came early,” said Velasquez. “That’s why you see me very tired.”
To his delight, he got through without delay.
“Even less people than what I was expecting,” said Velasquez.
That’s despite the fact that 7.5 percent of TSA employees nationwide did not show up for work Monday—more than double the number of unscheduled absences on the same day a year ago.
The TSA workers are required to show up for work during the shutdown, despite missing a paycheck earlier this month.
“A lot of government and federal employees are having to call into work because of the hardships, and those are the facts,” said Freddie Cuellar, the Houston president of the TSA branch of the AFGE union. “And a lot of them have to do with gas, and a lot of them have to do with child care.”
“It’s just sad they’re not getting paid for all the hard work they do,” said Jacob Warschauer who does contract security work at Bush Airport through G2 Secure Staff.
As a contractor, Warschauer is getting paid during the shutdown, but he says the longer TSA goes without pay, the more his concerns grow.
“You never know that one day that one psycho might find a way to sneak something in,” said Warschauer. “We’re not paying TSA for it. It’s kind of scary—the idea.”
“Morale is at the lowest you’ve ever seen in your life,” said Cuellar.
Cuellar says his colleagues are scheduled to miss their second paycheck if the shutdown continues through Friday.
“If they don’t get paid this Friday, then not a majority, but a lot of them will be unable to report to work,” said Cuellar. “That is my expectation. Those are conversations I’ve had with employees.”
The shutdown continues as President Trump and Democrats have not agreed on funding for a border wall.
“I truly respect what the government and President is doing,” said Velasquez.
As a Mexican traveler Velasquez says he sides with Trump.
“Right now in Mexico we’re having the same problem with people coming up from Guatemala and Honduras and Nicaragua and crossing the border in Chiapas and walking from the south toward the U.S., and Mexico is not doing anything about it, so whether they build the wall or they have a different policy, I truly respect what the U.S. is doing, because at least they are doing something,” said Velasquez.
If you’d like to help the TSA workers who are going without pay, Cuellar says the biggest things they need help with are gas and child support. He also said you can help by donating to HoustonReliefHub.org.