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TSA agents calling in sick by the hundreds at airports across the country during shutdown

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TSA workers are essential employees who are required to continue working without a paycheck

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Transportation Security Administration agents are calling in sick by the hundreds at several major airports across the country, according to agency and union officials, CNN reported.

Call-outs have increased by as much as 300 percent at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, according to the report. Typically, about 25 to 30 employees call out on an average shift.

TSA agents are considered essential federal employees and must continue reporting to work despite not being paid during the partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22. There are about 55,000 TSA employees among the 420,000 federal workers required to stay on the job through the shutdown.

"This will definitely affect the flying public who we [are] sworn to protect," Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN.

Workers who worked the week before the shutdown are expected to receive a partial paycheck this week.

What about security lines?

So far, security line wait times haven't been affected, a DFW spokeswoman told KTVT-TV. But some believe that could soon change.

"This problem of call-outs is really going to explode over the next week or two when employees miss their first paycheck," a union official at DFW told CNN. "TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs."

Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham airports in North Carolina have seen about a 10 percent jump in TSA call-outs, local union president Mac Johnson told CNN.

"That number will get worse as this drags on," Johnson said.

But in Chicago, the number of sick calls was normal Monday at Midway and O'Hare airports, union leaders told WBBM-TV.

Union officials have stressed that the call-outs aren't part of an organized effort but they expect the numbers to rise if the shutdown lingers on.

There are also fears that new agents may quit their jobs since they aren't receiving a paycheck.

What else?

The union for federal employees will rally Thursday asking Congress to end the shutdown.

"Get them to do what the American people want and reopen the government and stop the damage to the American people," Jeanne Schulze of the American Federation of Government Employees told KTVT of the upcoming rally.

Federal agencies have encouraged affected workers to apply for unemployment or ask landlords and creditors to work with them during the shutdown.

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