“The Washington Post article entitled “Union wants vulnerable TSA officers to be kept home as coronavirus cases among employees surge” unfortunately presents a misleading narrative about employee cases among our essential TSA workforce, who have done a fantastic job carrying out their mission despite huge challenges presented by the pandemic.
TSA takes the health and safety of our workforce and airline passengers seriously and has implemented major initiatives to protect both. Some of what we have implemented continues to evolve, based on our growing knowledge about the virus and the latest CDC advice. This was provided to the Post but not included in their story.
The Post cites only the overall cumulative positive cases since March, but omits the active cases (which are under 500) or the recovered cases (which have eclipsed active cases).
Regardless of union position, the agency does not have the option to allow security officers to stop reporting to work without an eligible reason, of which there are many, as presented to all employees by headquarters over the last few months. ‘Weather and Safety’ Leave was offered very broadly for four months before it was updated as the pandemic continued, and now includes several alternative leave options. As passenger volume increased in June and July, so did the need for more officers at America’s checkpoints. TSA leadership, including Administrator Pekoske, have regular, positive dialogue with union representatives and also cover these issues frequently during employee town halls in which anonymous questions are allowed.
Many members of the TSA family are contracting COVID-19 outside of the workplace, so the need to take precautions in their personal time continues to be extremely important to our mission.
Vulnerable population members in the TSA workforce have been afforded important new protections and alternatives to fit their individual situation, including the option of nearly 1,000 open detail opportunities within TSA and outside of TSA (such as with SBA) to take on different roles. PPE was quickly and efficiently provided to the workforce, and continues to be available in abundant supply. Barriers were constructed and extra space opened up to allow for social distancing. Exponentially better cleaning protocols and schedules have been employed by airports and airlines. The air travel environment for passengers and workers is much, much safer – and these changes will outlast COVID-19.
As we attempt to remove the touchpoints, like IDs and passengers’ property during the screening process, touchless technology is one of our major priorities. Computed Tomography (CT), Enhanced AIT (eAIT) and Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) are examples of technologies changing the way we do business. In partnership with airport and airline partners, the air travel experience looks far different than it did before March of this year.”