by Associated Press | January 17, 2019
TSA officials say the rate of airport screeners missing work during the partial government shutdown has stabilized just days before a three-day holiday weekend that is likely to bring bigger airport crowds. The Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday that 6.1 percent of its airport screeners missed work Tuesday. That's nearly double the absentee rate on the same day last year, but the second straight decline after the sick-out rate surged to 7.7 percent Sunday.
A TSA official said screeners this week should have received $500 bonuses and, for some, an extra day's pay, for working over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
 
Meanwhile, air-traffic controllers who are also working without pay lost an effort to force the government to pay them. A federal judge Tuesday rejected their union's request for an immediate temporary restraining order. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Treasury Department employees' union argued that the Trump administration is violating the Constitution and federal labor law by requiring members to work without pay. Another hearing in the case is set for Jan. 31.
 
While the ranks of unpaid federal workers are growing, the IRS this week said it will recall thousands of workers to handle tax returns, and the Federal Aviation Administration plans to bring 2,200 safety inspectors back to work.
 
The TSA could be facing a test by Friday of its ability to process airport crowds with fewer workers. Last year, nearly 8 million people flew between Friday and Monday of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. While that is less than the 9 million who flew around the Memorial Day holiday, it is busier than most January weekends.
 
TSA Administrator David Pekoske announced last weekend that the agency would pay each officer a $500 bonus and that the agency processed pay for screeners who worked Dec. 22, the first day of the shutdown. An agency spokesman said officers should have received the money by Wednesday.
 
Pekoske said he was able to make the payments "because of unique authorities provided TSA in law." He said he hoped they would ease the financial hardship facing many of the workers. Most of them earn between $26,000 and $35,000 a year, according to a TSA spokesperson.