A partial government shutdown that has left federal workers unpaid has given Louisiana volunteers some food for thought.
Antoine Pierce and chef Nequouia Payne began serving breakfast this week to TSA agents at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. Federal security screeners have been working without paychecks for about a month.
“It’s human suffering, and we don’t want to see that,” Pierce said Tuesday, next to a table of scrambled eggs, sausages and quiche. “This is the least we can do.”
The initiative has support from airport officials, who are making a separate push to help workers. Administrators placed drop boxes for the public to donate groceries to the more than 40 TSA staff on site.
“I think anybody in the public can relate to going a number of weeks without a check,” airport spokesman Jim Caldwell said. “These are dedicated people who are continuing to work.”
Many of the airport’s TSA workers have declined interviews, for fear of losing their jobs. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one employee told BRProud.com that he is considering a part-time job to help pay bills. Others argued that secondary jobs are out of the question, since most employers will not hire on such temporary circumstances.
“Time is not on their side,” Caldwell said.
Pierce and his Better Boys Initiative intend to keep serving the free breakfasts until the shutdown ends.
“We want to do something just to let them know that we care, that we see you,” Pierce said.
The offerings come after the nation’s airports saw record absences this weekend. A record 10 percent of security screeners called out from work Sunday, as the lack of pay erodes employee morale.
Worker attendance at the Baton Rouge airport has differed from the national trend. A local TSA manager says agents are largely showing up to work as normal, despite no promise of when paychecks will reappear.
How to help
Pierce’s nonprofit organization is accepting donations online or by checks payable to:
Better Boys Initiative
P. O. Box 86028
Baton Rouge, La. 70879