OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — It’s not the first government shutdown for Luster Harris, a Transportation Security Administration agent at Oakland International Airport for the past 14 years. But Harris says this one is different because there’s no end in sight.
Harris is furloughed but required to go to work because he’s considered to be among the essential personnel. Most of his TSA colleagues are still showing up every day, but some have been calling in sick. Harris said it’s not because they have bad attitudes but because they have long commutes and child care and limited funds for both.
Other TSA workers are not required to go to work, so people are being shuffled around to try and take up the slack and Harris said that is causing some delays and paperwork backlogs.
“Everything is slowing down a little bit,” Harris said.
As for the president’s concern over a border wall, Harris believes it is misguided.
“Yes, we need border security, but you’re missing out on the security of other things,” Harris said. “All our services are not running so some things are not being checked like they should be.”
On Monday, a weapon somehow got through airport security in Atlanta onto a Delta flight. Harris said he is not surprised and is worried that could happen here.
“So far, God bless, nothing has happened,” Harris said. “but there’s no telling when somebody with ill intentions may try something or sneak something on board and we don’t have the personnel to catch it. At least, not right now.”
Harris has six other family members who work for the federal government, including both parents and a brother. Most of them don’t live in the Bay Area and since they are in the same predicament, Harris doesn’t have the ability to go to them for help.
“Usually, you would pass around the hat. ‘Can you give me 20 bucks, can you loan me 50 bucks?'” said Harris. “But we’re now doing that to each other, and so it’s making it really difficult.”
Harris knows from experience he will likely be paid retroactively, but says the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any progress on the negotiations makes it difficult to stay optimistic.
He has begun looking for other work while hoping the shutdown will end soon.
“I don’t know about everybody else, but I can go so long,” Harris said. “I was able to pay off all my bills this month, but next month in February, I just don’t have it.”