A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security slammed the “fake news” being peddled by CNN about a “sick out” allegedly staged by TSA screeners.
In a report published Friday, the network claimed that “hundreds” of screeners were calling out sick at airports across the nation in response to having to work without pay.
“Hundreds of Transportation Security Administration officers, who are required to work without paychecks through the partial government shutdown, have called out from work this week from at least four major airports, according to two senior agency officials and three TSA employee union officials,” CNN reported.
DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton called out the network in a tweet Friday, claiming CNN “grossly misrepresented” the data and did not reach out to agency officials to validate their information.
More #FakeNews from @CNN. Security operations at airports have not been impacted by a non-existent sick out. CNN has the cell numbers of multiple @TSA public affairs professionals, but rather than validate statistics, they grossly misrepresented them. https://t.co/PzVeoIBt5R
— Tyler Q. Houlton (@SpoxDHS) January 4, 2019
CNN reported that two of their sources who are federal officials said the “sick-outs” were a retaliatory protest over delayed paychecks.
“A union official, however, said that while some employees are upset about the pay, officers have said they are calling in sick for more practical reasons,” the report clarified. “Single parents can no longer afford childcare or they are finding cash-paying jobs outside of government work to pay their rent and other bills, for example.”
Meanwhile, the TSA responded directly in a statement saying that although the call outs that began over the holiday have increased, they will have a “minimal impact” on security.
Statement on nationwide “sick out” as reported by CNN’s Rene Marsh and Gregory Wallace. #News pic.twitter.com/RK0wiFLRJt
— TSA (@TSA) January 4, 2019
“This problem of call outs is really going to explode over the next week or two when employees miss their first paycheck,” a Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport union official told CNN. “TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs.”
Over 150 TSA workers called out Friday from Kennedy International Airport in New York City, employee union officials told the New York Times. Other employees filled the gap by working extra hours, also without pay.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske insisted that shutdowns have never resulted in “a situation where officers did not get paid.”
Rather than a concerted effort to protest the government shutdown by calling out sick, TSA employees are simply reacting to economics, according to the TSA workers union. A May 2017 US Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicated that the annual wage for TSA employees was about $40,960, or $19.69 per hour.
“TSA workers aren’t highly paid very much, they live paycheck to paycheck and they depend on that paycheck at the end of the month,” union president Hydrick Thomas told Business Insider.
“TSA employees aren’t calling out intentionally,” he added. “They are calling out because they don’t have the funds to make it work.”
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