Washington, D.C. – Last week, Rep. Burgess Owens (UT-04) joined Rep. Chris Jacobs (NY-27) and several colleagues on a letter to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske highlighting the impact of the upcoming vaccine mandate on holiday travel. The members ask TSA to consider options to their current strident November 22nd mandate deadline, either delaying implementation of the mandate or allowing options for workers in lieu of the vaccine such as frequent COVID testing.
TSA employees – along with all other federal employees – must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 22, 2021 per President Biden’s Executive Order 14043. Last week, the TSA said that up to 40% of its agents are unvaccinated. These individuals would not be able to work starting the week of Thanksgiving, barring an exemption being granted.
Full text of the letter can be found here:
Dear Administrator Pekoske,
As we approach the November 22, 2021 deadline for federal employees to get their COVID-19 vaccine, we write to urge your agency to consider delaying that deadline or otherwise modifying the agency’s vaccine mandate to ensure U.S. airports do not face a shortage of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers, especially during the upcoming holiday season.
During a media interview on October 13, you indicated that 40% of your workforce is not currently vaccinated against COVID-19. Further, the possibility of being fully vaccinated with vaccines that require two doses has elapsed already, meaning that potentially thousands of employees might not even be able to meet the November 22 deadline even if they receive their first dose in advance of that date.
Many analysts and companies in the travel industry are predicting a busy holiday season as demand for air travel continues to recover from the lows experienced during the pandemic. This increased demand for air travel, combined with the looming threat that many TSA officers could not be on the job if they do not receive their vaccine, could result in disastrous delays and backups for many who may be traveling to see family for the first time since COVID hit. We are concerned about the inflexibility of the vaccine mandate, and strongly urge you to consider a delay, exceptions, or alternatives that will allow TSA officers to stay on the job and keep our airports open during what is anticipated to be a busy holiday travel season. For instance, alternatives like a COVID testing regimen merit consideration.
We must not allow an arbitrary deadline to negatively impact travel when TSA has shown the ability to stay on the job safely for months. Please take urgent action to ensure that there are not needless labor shortages among the TSA workforce or delays at U.S. airports.