NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA) — Union members at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and Fort Smith Regional Airport are calling for the government shutdown to end.
Several members of the local American Federation of Government Employee union, which represents members at XNA and FSM say they are now facing the reality of missing a paycheck and causing a financial burden on their families.
“I don’t know when I’ll get my next paycheck, and it’s causing a lot of financial stress for me and my family,” AFGE Local 917 President Cherry Hooten said. “My bills don’t stop just because the government is shut down.”
In a press release put out Wednesday, AFGE Local 917 says many transportation security officers have quit or are considering leaving the federal workforce because of extreme financial hardships.
“Every day I’m getting calls from my members about their extreme financial hardships and need for a paycheck. Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown,” AFGE TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas said.
It goes on to say the loss of officers during this shutdown could be detrimental for public safety.
“The loss of officers, while we’re already shorthanded, will create a massive security risk for American travelers since we don’t have enough trainees in the pipeline or the ability to process new hires. Our TSO’s already do an amazing job without the proper staffing levels, but if this keeps up there are problems that will arise – least of which would be increased wait times for travelers,” Thomas said.
Hooten adds, “This is a public safety issue for our members and the American traveling public at large,” said Cherry Hooten, president of AFGE Local 917. “When the women and men who come to work every day to safeguard our airports are distracted, wondering how they are going to pay their bills because they don’t know when they’ll get their next check, lives are being put at risk. Not just in the airport, but across the country.”
XNA Airport Director Kelly Johnson says she agrees.
“If we have a scaling back of people at work and that checkpoint is closed — no flights. We got to have the checkpoint open, it’s an essential function. We can’t operate without it, so this needs to end.”
AFGE is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government.