Complaints by security workers at Seattle-Tacoma International
Airport have prompted an investigation by the Transportation
Security Administration, The Seattle Times reported Sunday.
A letter and petition, signed by 206 of the airport's 1,100
TSA employees, claimed that managers have created a culture
of "fear and intimidation" that has led to high
turnover and hindered efforts to maintain security.
The employees called for an investigation into top management.
They sent the letter and petition in December to the TSA,
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, several federal inspectors
general, Washington's congressional delegation and Gov. Gary
Field inspectors have been dispatched as a result and will
begin meeting with employees Monday, The Times reported Sunday,
citing internal memos.
"An investigation such as this should serve to clear
the air," Bob Blunk, TSA's federal security director
at Sea-Tac, wrote in one of the memos.
Working conditions at Sea-Tac lead to stress, disorganization
and weaker security for the public, screeners and supervisors
Although they signed their names to the petition and called
for federal and state whistle-blower protection in their letter,
the screeners and supervisors who spoke with The Times asked
not to be identified for fear of being fired.
Blunk told The Times that he has copies of the letter, but
not of the petition and signatures.
He said he was not surprised that employees are unhappy.
"They want things to be better," he said. "They
want to be in a place where they can work hard and be happy."
A request for comment from TSA headquarters was referred
to the Homeland Security Department, which referred the request
back to TSA headquarters, the newspaper said.
In their letter, employees said:
Blunk told the newspaper that investigators have been looking
into that manager's activities. Blunk also has met with screeners
partly because of concerns raised in the letter.
Blunk said staff turnover is now 15.5 percent. That's above
the national turnover rate of 13.6 percent, he said. In August,
TSA reported that turnover was 9.5 percent at Sea-Tac and
about 6 percent nationally.
Screeners said turnover has meant staff shortages and long
lines some days. One screener said carry-on bags randomly
selected for searches sometimes are not examined thoroughly.
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, has directed his Seattle staff
to invite airport screeners to share their concerns.
"We will take the appropriate follow-up steps, including
talking with TSA directly," McDermott said in a statement.
Once investigators are finished, they will send their report
to TSA's Aviation Operations office, which oversees airport
operations, Blunk said.