MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Airport customers heard the loud cries of an angry union amid pouring rain and thunder claps Tuesday.
Transportation Security Administration screeners say understaffing and slipping morale are no way to solve the crisis.
“We’ve been doing more with less, and the long lines are proof positive that we can’t wait any longer to act,” said Celia Hahn, president of AFGE Local 899.
The problem with long security lines began at the height of spring travel. Angry passengers and Congress blamed the TSA for not foreseeing heavier travel demand and smaller staffing.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman was among those coming to the officers’ defense.
“These are the folks that are keeping us safe,” Coleman said. “This is a simple math equation. We have 100 million more people flying. We have 6,000-fewer TSA screeners, and we have longer and longer and longer wait times.”
While the TSA is authorizing millions more for canines, overtime and moving staff to full-time, it is the raiding of the airline security fee — charged to each passenger — that really frustrates the union.
Congress is taking nearly $13 billion from the fund and using it for debt relief.
“We could use about 5,000 TSOs nationwide,” said Jane Nygaard of the American Federation of Government Employees. “They could do that quickly and easily by just keeping the money from the fees that people that fly and putting that money back into the TSA.”
The TSA promises that help is on the way. Administrator Peter Neffenger is feeling the heat of angry fliers.
But even with hundreds more security officers, the union representing them says thousands are needed.
Minnesota’s Congressional delegation is not talking about the diverting of the security fee money, but they have sent a letter to the TSA insisting that all 16 security lanes remain open this summer.
They recently approved $62 million more to the agency to hire and train staff, but that is a far cry from what the union says will be needed.