SEA-TAC AIRPORT - In its first job action, the union local representing many of the Transportation Security Administration officers at Sea-Tac airport are handing out leaflets to passengers crossing between the airport terminal and the parking garage.
In those leaflets, they ask this question: Increased risk? Details on the other side outline an agency and its employees working short handed and working tired - down as many as 35 or more people say union leaders, and employees working shifts of up to 10 hours with long stretches without breaks or lunch.
It's a situation where Local 1121 of the American Federation of Government Employees says it is compelled to speak out. Could a tired TSA screener miss something?
Cheryl Erbar has screened passengers at the airport since the TSA was formed and she is now Local 1121's president. She says she enjoys the job and its mission but we want to do it with our breaks. We want to do it with enough staff. We want to do it so we're doing it securely and correctly for everybody involved.
The union's leaflet goes on to assert that some female officers have lost their jobs because of pregnancy and the elimination of light duty roles that don't require lifting. Shift schedules change on short notice, and they haven't seen a pay increase in three years.
The TSA would not respond to specifics outlined in the union's leaflet but issued the following statement:
TSA recognizes that keeping air travelers safe and the transportation network secure is a difficult job. While we must stay focused on our critical security mission, TSA leadership listens to the suggestions of all employees.
The union blames long lines that began forming in June on the staffing problems as the tourism and cruise season picked up. The union says the agency is effectively in a hiring freeze, where officers are not replaced by more full time employees, rather more part time staff.
Lines had reached the point that Alaska Airlines had warned passengers last month to add up to an hour to clear security so they did not miss flights. The target time during busy periods to clear passengers through the check point is 20 minutes.
Local 1121 is hoping the arrival of a new federal security officer may help alleviate problems.