RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Federal employees including TSA workers rallied Wednesday afternoon outside Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Transportation Security Administration agents continue to work during the government shutdown, but they are not being paid. This Friday will be the second scheduled pay day without a paycheck since the shutdown started on Dec. 22.
“We are now in Day 33 of this government shutdown and the TSA employees have not been paid,” said Mac Johnson, a TSA agent who serves as president of the Local 449 chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).
“These employees have reached a breaking point where they’re starting to seek unemployment.”
Johnson said he thought the shutdown would have ended after two or three weeks.
Regional representatives from the AFGE joined Johnson and other local union members at the rally, which lasted for 30 minutes. Johnson said he and other participants were either on their lunch break or were not scheduled to work Wednesday. Some of the people who had the day off are currently furloughed and have not been to work since December.
Ken Krebs, a vice president of AFGE Local 3347 who represents workers at Environmental Protection Agency facilities, said he has completed a lot of tasks at home since the shutdown began, but he is impatiently waiting to get back to his office at Research Triangle Park.
“I’m a scientist. I love doing science and this is very disruptive to the scientific research we’ve been doing at the Environmental Protection Agency,” Krebs said.
He has been through government shutdowns before. While he missed one paycheck during a previous furlough, the money arrived in his account almost immediately after the government reopened.
Krebs said the greatest concern is an increasing drain on morale.
“We’ve already had pretty low morale as federal workers. We’ve been beaten up on for a long time, and we’re not being treated with respect,” he said.
Tangela Campbell, a single mother who works at the airport, said the hardest part of continuing to come to work is a lack of respect. She said a real sign of recognition for her efforts .
“We feel very disrespected that we are supposed to come to work and we’re supposed to act like nothing’s happening, like this is okay, like this is normal. It’s not normal,” Campbell said.
“The issue is not continuing to come do my job. The issue is trying to live after I finish my shift, and go home and continue as usual.”
Campbell was one of the protesters who was not scheduled to work Wednesday. She said it was important to come to the airport to stand for the people who were unable to take time away from their posts, or who feared repercussions for standing outside with a sign.
She had to borrow money from a friend to pay for gas to get to RDU.
“The hardship lies with not being paid, not being able to get here some times, and not being able to pay my bills. Car insurance, gas, rent, mortgage — all that needs to be taken care of,” Campbell said. “When you have those issues pressing on you, it gets a little hard sometimes to concentrate on what you’re supposed to do because you’re worried about financial obligations.”
Protesters said they don’t want to pose problems for travelers, they just want their paycheck problems fixed.
Similar rallies have happened at airports across the country, including a rally Tuesday at the Tampa airport which included U.S. Representatives Charlie Crist and Kathy Castor among the protesters. Crist, a former Florida governor as a Republican who became a Democrat before running for Congress, said he hopes the Senate will soon pass a bill to reopen the government.
There will be a rally at the Philadelphia airport on Friday.
Several airport police officers stood nearby as the marchers walked in a circle within a designated area marked by metal guardrails. One officer told CBS 17 the police presence was to protect the protesters from drivers leaving the departure drop off area. He said it is not uncommon for a driver to turn around and look back at the airport ticketing area, and veer off to the side as they drive away.