MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the partial federal government shutdown reaches 25 days and becomes the longest shutdown in history, about 800,000 are still going unpaid, and some affected are in Memphis.
TSA workers have been showing up to work, checking passengers and making sure rules are followed to keep people safe in the air. But aside from a thank you here and there, there is not much payoff for their dedication.
Show up, do the job and a payday is the reward. For Mia Williams, and countless others that routine isn’t rolling the way it used to.
“It’s getting real out here,” Williams said.
Williams is one of the federal employees doing their job but not seeing a paycheck because of the government shutdown. She has worked as a TSA agent for 16 years.
Four years ago, Williams took over as the executive vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, fighting for the rights of people like her. Now, she’s also fighting for herself.
“We missed a paycheck,” she said. “We need food. We still have to pay mortgages. We still gotta pay car notes, insurance.”
Williams said her bills cannot wait too long.
“It’s getting real now,” Williams said. “They’ll put the bills off for a minute, but eventually they will want their money.”
With all the responsibilities weighing on Williams, she’s feeling every bit of what the shutdown means for not only her but also her family.
“I have a 7-year-old, and it’s getting to the point that I’m going to wonder how am I going to feed my son,” she said.
For now, as this mother works for free, she’s relying on passengers to keep her pushing.
“We have passengers coming through, ‘Thank you for being here. Thank you for showing up right now.’ That matters,” Williams said.
She knows she made a promise to protect.
“I took a vow to make sure these planes stay safe, and I do my job as if I am collecting a check,” Williams said.
Though she can’t help but hope the money she is owed is headed her way.
“Whatever agreement you have to come to, let’s make it and get food back in these families’ homes, get these families’ bills paid,” she said.
The Memphis Food Bank donated vouchers to workers Wednesday for three weeks’ worth of groceries, giving families one less thing to worry about for now.