This Labor Day Let’s Celebrate Those Who Keep Us Safe in the Skies

Labor Day is the one day of the year dedicated to celebrating America’s workers. It marks the end of the summer and the beginning of a new season. It’s a time for backyard barbeques and last-minute vacations before the kids go back to school.

While we prepare for our holiday travels and time off from work to commemorate the occasion, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers will be at the airports helping us get to our destinations safely.

TSA officers work long hours, often deal with angry passengers, and are denied full workplace rights and the same pay scale as other federal workers. They’re hassled by their managers when they need to take time off to care for a sick child and don’t have much say when they face discrimination or retaliation from their supervisors. They often do the work of two or more people because their jobs have been severely understaffed for years. Earlier this year, TSA officers worked for 35 days during the longest shutdown in government history without knowing when they would be paid again.

Why should people care about what’s going on with TSA officers? Because they are the ones screening our luggage, stopping harmful weapons from getting on our airplanes, and ensuring we reach our destinations safely. In 2018 alone, they stopped a record-setting 4,239 total firearms from getting on airplanes nationwide. The officers’ poor working conditions and morale affect all of us directly.

TSA officers are the first line of defense for our nation’s aviation security. They protect passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and our country. They screen more than 2 million travelers per day and are an integral part of our national security framework. Yet, TSA management refuses to pay them a decent wage.

The average starting salary for TSA officers is $35,000 annually. That’s less than $17 per hour. TSA management boasts a performance-based pay and awards system, but the system is unfair and provides minimal opportunities for pay increases.

TSA officers are treated like second-class citizens at the workplace. They lack some of the same basic workplace protections other federal employees have, such as fair pay, benefits, and worker protections against unfair labor practices. TSA does not follow the General Schedule payscale that all other federal workers are afforded, and TSA officers are denied the same overtime pay as their counterparts in other agencies.

TSA officers across the nation have performed their jobs effectively, efficiently, and with a professional demeanor, but for too long have suffered under duress largely at the hands of TSA management. These dedicated public servants deserve fair workplace rights.

It’s past time the officers who protect us are respected and treated fairly at the workplace. Our union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents 45,000 TSA officers nationwide, and our congressional allies are leading the charge to finally grant these officers the workplace rights they deserve.

While we rush through airport security to catch our flights, TSA officers “sweat the small stuff” to make sure we’re secure in the friendly skies. As you’re traveling this Labor Day weekend, don’t forget to thank a TSA officer for helping you safely reach your destination.

Headshot of J. David Cox

J. David Cox Sr. is the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 670,000 federal and D.C. government employees nationwide, including 45,000 TSA officers.

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