Earlier this week, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which is the busiest in the country and also the biggest employer in Georgia, announced security-line waiting times of nearly an hour and a half—more than twice that of any other airport in the country. On account of the prolonged government shutdown, which began on December 22nd and does not appear to be ending anytime soon, Transportation Security Administration officers are not being paid, and a number of them have decided not to come to work. At Hartsfield, a half-dozen security lanes were reportedly closed in the domestic terminal as a result.
Some close to the White House reportedly believe that the only way Trump will stop the shutdown—short of Democrats green-lighting a wall along the border with Mexico—is if the thousands of T.S.A. officials who safeguard the nation’s airports collectively decide to stay home. This would infuriate enough Americans from all parties, the thinking goes, to force Trump to compromise with Democrats.
On Wednesday night, after her shift had ended, I spoke with a T.S.A. officer at Hartsfield. An African-American woman in her early forties, she lives in Atlanta with her adult daughter. The officer asked that I not use her name, fearing retaliation from the agency. For two years, she has worked forty hours a week, for thirty-five thousand dollars a year after taxes. This is slightly more than she made at her previous job as a self-employed beautician, and the work, she explained, is more stable. Or at least it was. Her account, which she provided by phone, has been edited and condensed.