San Diego

TSA Agent Says Employees Who Call Out Sick Will be Disciplined

“We cannot voluntarily furlough...We cannot call out sick...There is no sick leave, we were told if you call out sick, you'd be AWOL," the agent said.

Hundreds of TSA agents who worked through the holidays to make sure San Diego travelers boarded planes safely don’t know when their next paychecks will come.

The message from the TSA stays the same -- security standards have been uncompromised throughout the shutdown and that wait times haven’t been that long either.

However, that doesn’t mean that TSA employees are going to be happy about missing their first paycheck.

Lead transportation security officer Ron Gerber remembers past shutdowns well.

“Back in 2013, October 1st, we did end up missing a check then,” he said. Gerber remembers how the frustration surrounding when and how much he was paid continued even after the shutdown ended.

“It took a while. Once we got back to work to even get a paycheck and most of the time it was not correct,” he said.

Gerber is one of about 600 TSA workers at Lindbergh Field forced to work without pay during this shutdown.

Other federal workers are furloughed and can't work at all.

“They at least could get other jobs, they have those 40 hours. They can be [driving for Uber] or whatever,” Gerber said.

NBC News has reported TSA officers across the country were calling out to sick to work other gigs.

The TSA disputed that report and Gerber says agents locally haven’t been calling out in high volumes.

“We cannot voluntarily furlough...We cannot call out sick...There is no sick leave, we were told if you call out sick, you'd be AWOL (absent without official leave). Disciplinary action,” Gerber said.

While the shutdown continues over a debate surrounding the border and national security, Gerber points out he and his co-workers are being punished for protecting the country every day.

“Nothing has happened to an airliner that has left the United States. And that's because of us,” he said.

So Gerber plans to wake up on shutdown day 21 for his 3:30 a.m. shift, but hopes people can put themselves in his and other employees’ shoes.

“Whatever job you have -- miss one month of pay and not know if you're gonna miss next month's pay or the month after that or the month after that, when do you make a decision to leave?”

The San Diego International Airport said it hasn’t seen an impact from the shutdown and said the FAA and TSA have been working effectively.

Gerber said one of his colleagues has organized food and supplies like diapers to be handed out from a Chula Vista church for TSA workers struggling to get by.

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