Aspen TSA employees still showing up to work despite no paycheck
January 17, 2019
Federal security officers continue to show up to do their jobs at Aspen's airport despite the fact that they haven't been paid in more than three weeks because of the government shutdown, officials said Wednesday.
"If they didn't show up, flights wouldn't take off," said John Kinney, airport director. "The economy would come to a screeching halt."
The shutdown of the federal government stretched into its 26th day Wednesday, the longest in U.S. history. Negotiations between the Trump administration and Congress to end the shutdown have been fruitless.
Transportation Safety Administration workers — who man security checkpoints at U.S. airports — have been asked, along with other essential workers, to show up for work despite not receiving a paycheck during the shutdown. Some airports have reported long security lines after some TSA workers declined the request.
But in Aspen, it's been business as usual, said Melanya Berggren, TSA's transportation security manager in Aspen. The 34 TSA employees under her supervision have continued to report to work and she said she hasn't had to even address people not showing up.
"That has not even crossed my mind," she said. "We have great people with a lot of integrity."
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"A, we can't thank them enough," he said. "And B, it's testimony to their dedication to their jobs. It really is national security."
The "political spitting contest" in Washington, D.C., has brought into sharp focus just how important TSA employees are, Kinney said. People on the national "no-fly list" try to board planes even in Aspen, and the TSA is the first line of defense against terrorist acts, he said.
"It's just dumbfounding to me when you look at the billions and billions of dollars we've put into national security since 9/11," he said.
Starting next week, the airport will pay for some buffet-style lunches from local restaurants for TSA workers, Kinney said.
"If the vast majority of Americans lose one, two or three paychecks, it would be absolutely devastating," he said.
Other restaurants separately have offered to provide food for TSA workers, while some passengers have offered workers money, said Kinney and Berggren. One man offered $1,000 to an airport employee to "sprinkle" around to needy TSA employees, Kinney said, while another wanted to provide gift cards.
TSA employees can accept meals, but anything beyond that must be OK'd by Berggren. Accepting gift cards or cash is not allowed, she said.
"Unfortunately, that is a no," Berggren said.
Travelers have almost uniformly been grateful and gracious toward TSA workers at the Aspen-Piktin County Airport throughout the shutdown, she said.
"Almost every passenger says, 'Thank you for being here,'" Berggren said.
Aspen's TSA employees are thankful for the support, she said.
"We're forever gratified," she said.