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Letter to TSA Demands Overdue Back Pay

March 14, 2019, 8:20 AM HST (Updated March 14, 2019, 8:20 AM)
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In a letter to the Transportation Security Administration, Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) wrote to Administrator David Pekoske to express their concern about reports that over 1,000 TSA employees nationwide have still not received the entirety of back pay they are owed from the 35-day government shutdown.

“Thousands of TSA employees reported for work during the holiday season and into January knowing they would not receive pay for their labor in a timely manner. During that time, we heard many reports of dedicated TSA employees who already live paycheck to paycheck being unable to cover personal expenses like rent or mortgage payments, car payments and grocery bills. Communities throughout the country came together to set up food banks to help ensure unpaid TSA workers could keep their families fed during the government shutdown,” the senators wrote.

“Your first responsibility must be to identify all TSA employees who are owed back pay and to ensure they are all made whole by the next scheduled pay day—the third since the end of the shutdown—on March 8, 2019. If this is not practicable, please advise us on what date every TSA employee will be fully compensated. TSA needs to take responsibility for paying all employees correctly. It will be important to identify and fix the administrative process that led to over 1,000 hardworking employees not receiving their full earned pay,” the senators continued.

Earlier this month, CNN reported that more than 1,000 TSA employees are still waiting to be paid due to the TSA’s decision to pay a partial paycheck to workers in order to help keep them on the job. According to data published in 2017 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median TSA salary is less than $41,000.

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In February, Sen. Hirono wrote to the executives of the three national credit bureaus to request information about what steps have been taken to protect the creditworthiness of federal employees and contractors impacted by the government shutdown. During the shutdown, many workers who were not eligible for unemployment insurance exhausted their savings and were on the brink of missing their next mortgage payment and other expenses that could negatively impact their creditworthiness, even as they receive back pay for their work.

While she continues to fight to ensure federal employees get the pay they deserve, Senator Hirono also took a number of legislative actions that would assist federal contract employees that were hurt during the shutdown. Sens. Hirono, Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and 21 of their colleagues introduced legislation to secure back pay for the federal contractor employees impacted by the government shutdown. Senator Hirono was also an original co-sponsor of the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act, which was signed into law on January 16, 2019, and ensures all federal workers who were furloughed or required to work during the government shutdown will receive back pay.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

The Honorable David Pekoske
Administrator
Transportation Security Administration
601 South 12th Street
Arlington, VA 20598-6001

Dear Administrator Pekoske,

We write to express our deep concern about reports that 1,000 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees nationwide have still not received the entirety of back-pay they are owed from the 35-day government shutdown. This is unacceptable and must be fixed immediately.

Thousands of TSA employees reported for work during the holiday season and into January knowing they would not receive pay for their labor in a timely manner. During that time, we heard many reports of dedicated TSA employees who already live paycheck to paycheck being unable to cover personal expenses like rent or mortgage payments, car payments, and grocery bills. Communities throughout the country came together to set up food banks to help ensure unpaid TSA workers could keep their families fed during the government shutdown.

Throughout the duration of the shutdown, these front line national security employees worked to ensure our airports were safe for passenger travel and commerce. And yet, according to a CNN report published March 1, 2019, approximately 1,000 of 60,000 TSA employees, still require some sort of pay correction. CNN quoted an unnamed TSA official as saying, “The administrator used Fiscal Year 2018 money to partially pay TSA employees. This cheated the purpose of the shutdown. They were scrambling to keep people on the job because you had a number of sick outs taking place, but in fact, they created more problems for employees. And they’re dealing with it one month after the shutdown is over.”

Your first responsibility must be to identify all TSA employees who are owed back pay and to ensure they are all made whole by the next scheduled pay day – the third since the end of the shutdown – on March 8, 2019. If this is not practicable, please advise us on what date every TSA employee will be fully compensated. TSA needs to take responsibility for paying all employees correctly. It will be important to identify and fix the administrative process that led to over 1,000 hardworking employees not receiving their full earned pay.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this very important matter. We look forward to hearing from you as to when all TSA employees will be fully compensated.

Sincerely,

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