I am a Transportation Security Officer. I have a degree in Behavioral Science and am one course shy of a graduate certificate in Applied Statistics. I had a good GPA. I work hard, but I don't make very much money. I don't receive pay increases. I may no longer receive bonuses for good performance. I am probably within the top 10% of my screening peers. I care about my job very much, although I long to do something more with my talents and abilities. I test constantly, knowing each time I do, that a failure could cost me my job. In the past, I've taken my own time to study and learn correct procedure when my employers couldn't spare the time for my continued learning. I've stayed and worked mandatory overtime when our staffing wasn't adequate enough to keep up with screening functions. I have tolerated more abuse from the traveling public than most people could handle without losing their minds. I recently transferred to a state where I knew no one, leaving behind family and friends to start a new life in a city I could better afford. I am not sure how my coworkers, still in the city Congress has shut down, will manage to get by without their next paycheck. I worry for them, because already they can only afford to live in bad parts of the city, where they send their children to failing schools. I know most of them live paycheck to paycheck. I know most of them can barely afford their car payments, some of them without any transportation at all besides bus and metro. Their employers will still expect them at work tomorrow, some shifts starting before public transportation even begins running. Their mothers, fathers, and grandparents will watch their children for them, just like they do every workday since they can't afford childcare. Some will have trouble just paying for food. Many will not qualify for any government assistance at all. And this is how we live when we ARE getting paid. Today we were told, while we still work, we will not be paid. We are essential enough to report to work during hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, crippling snow storms, and holidays we'd rather spend at home with our loved ones, but apparently we are not important enough to actually pay.
I know as TSA officers we are not appreciated by all. Even today, after receiving the news that our pay and healthcare are now in jeopardy, we come home to read in the news, not about our hard work and dedication, but about the latest TSA complaints....the mom with formula that alarmed and missed her flight...the 9 year old that apparently slipped by a TSA document checker (who most likely was already multi-tasking to an extreme). Where are the stories of the countless people we help to keep safe every day that we report to work?
The truth is that some of us might be able to last another paycheck or two. But what happens after that? Have all of the TSA haters considered the alternative to the screening they feel is such a violation? The ultimate violation isn't airport security. It is the loss of a loved one, the loss of an unfinished life, the loss of our most basic need to be safe from harm.
Be nice. Thank a Transportation Security Officer near you.
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