With no end in sight to government shutdown, TSA agents at Hawaii airports start to resign

TSA agents in Honolulu, HI, have missed a second paycheck Jan. 25 as a government shutdown...
TSA agents in Honolulu, HI, have missed a second paycheck Jan. 25 as a government shutdown drags on. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Jan. 24, 2019 at 2:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The burden of working with no pay has gotten to be too much for some federal workers impacted by the ongoing government shutdown ― now in its 34th day.

Sources confirmed Wednesday that TSA officers at Hawaii airports have started turning in their resignations. Exactly how many is unclear.

Also unclear: How the resignations will affect airport security lines.

In the meantime, others are sacrificing the comforts of home just to stay on the job.

For one Kona-based TSA worker, living in a parking lot has become the new normal.

A TSA agent who works at Kona Airport has been living in his vehicle because he can't afford...
A TSA agent who works at Kona Airport has been living in his vehicle because he can't afford gas for the daily commute. (Image: Viewer)

No longer able to afford the commute from Hilo, he’s been forced to turn his van into his home. He returns home just once a week to see his family.

“I’ve heard of these examples of the federal workforce, screeners in particular on the Big Island living in their cars,” said American Federation of Government Employees Chief Union Steward Joshua Christie.

[Read more: Facing a second missed paycheck, hundreds of federal workers line up for emergency food bags]

Christie says the situation for many federal workers is growing more dire by the day.

Over the past week, he’s started fielding calls from people getting eviction notices.

He says others have started putting off doctors appointments and stopped refilling prescriptions because they can’t afford the co-pay.

“When you look at how much a screener is getting paid compared to other federal agencies, you can see why the screeners in particular are in the situation they’re in. They’re living paycheck-to-paycheck,” said Christie.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Continuing coverage of the government shutdown]

Earlier in the week, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono was in Hawaii meeting with some of the affected workers.

“When I met with the TSA people the other day they told us their stories and they’re crying because it’s so traumatic,” said Hirono, D-Hawaii. “They’re facing eviction, moving back with their parents, having to take out personal loans.”

During an interview Tuesday at an emergency food distribution event, Hirono accused President Trump of using federal workers as a political pawn.

“He’s negotiating from a hostage taking position,” said Hirono. “The President is amoral. He makes no difference between right or wrong. He doesn’t care.”

Meanwhile, press secretary Sarah Sanders criticized Democrats' unwillingness to meet with the president.

“The real question is why aren’t Democrats supporting the president’s proposal, the very thing they said they wanted to see happen for a long time on a number of fronts?” said Sanders. “The president’s the only one in this process that’s actually trying to help people that Democrats claim they care about.”

On Friday, some 800,000 federal workers are poised to miss a second paycheck if the government shutdown isn’t resolved. More than half of those workers, including TSA agents, air traffic controllers, and federal law enforcement officers, are deemed “essential” and so working without pay.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants said the government shutdown is risking the “safety and security” of passengers, employees and airlines.

“This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight,” the statement said. “In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.”

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