On the heels of what could have been a disaster, the job of a US Transportation Security Administration transportation security officer (TSO) has become just a tad bit more stressful than it already is.
A TSO is the person scanning passengers at US airports with hand wands, doing pat downs and searches for potentially dangerous devices all while dealing with irate travellers.
It’s the person you probably roll your eyes at when you’re asked to remove your shoes before walking through the security checkpoint.
And, at least according to a job ad I found on the USAjobs.gov site (PDF), a TSO does this for between US$28,626 and US$42,938 a year.
(According to this site, the average TSA pay is US$58,000, but after looking at the TSA pay scale something’s telling me that that average may be skewed.)
Granted, this works out to a base wage of about US$14.90 an hour, which is a little more than double the US federal minimum wage, which in my opinion is frightfully low to begin with at US$7.25.
Yep. US$14.90 is ‘acceptable,’ but taking into account that a person could earn something in the same range snapping beans while dealing with a lot less stress, how seriously the federal government takes the importance of the TSO’s role needs to be questioned.
Check out the duties, again, from the job ad:
TSOs MUST be willing and able to:
- Repeatedly lift and carry up to 70 pounds;
- Continuously stand between one (1) to four (4) hours without a
break to carry out screening functions;
- Walk up to two (2) miles during a shift;
- Communicate with the public, giving directions and responding to
inquiries in a professional and courteous manner;
- Maintain focus and awareness and work within a stressful
environment which includes noise from alarms, machinery, and people,
distractions, time pressure, disruptive and angry passengers, and
the requirement to identify and locate potentially life threatening
devices and devices intended on creating massive destruction;
- Make effective decisions in both crisis and routine
situations. (bold emphasis mine)
All for between US$28,626 and US$42,938.
Yes, I’ve encountered TSOs whose attitudes match the stench of some of the shoes that go through the scanners. But, more often than not, I’ve encountered officers who are attempting to perform their jobs under relentless pressure, the type of pressure where if you break, it could mean life or death.
TSOs are an integral link in the war on terror (or whatever it’s being called today). They’re on the front lines, having to use their intellect and skills to keep travellers safe (read over that last bullet point above again).
It’s time to pay them what they’re worth.