A private Facebook page with more than 18,000 current or former employees of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has included comments critical of passengers and managers, some with racist, violent or crude overtones.
A News4 I-Team investigation found a series of posts and exchanges in which members of the group use vulgarities to describe passengers and colleagues.
In one post, a TSA employee wrote, “F***ing idiots of the world making my job harder. I hope your plane blows up.” His social media profile indicates the employee works at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
In a different post, a member of the Facebook page wrote, “How the f*** do these passengers wake up and get themselves dressed in the morning and make it to the airport without getting themselves killed? Cause these people are pretty f***ing stupid.”
In a post about a group of passengers from China, TSA employees made a racially insensitive comment. While others commented that it was common for passengers from China to receive additional TSA scrutiny of their baggage.
The Facebook page restricts membership to only those who work inside the agency, according to multiple employees. Some of the cruder postings were shared with the I-Team by a member of the Facebook page.
A spokesperson for TSA said the page "is not affiliated with TSA" and the agency "does not monitor the site,” but added, "An employee's off-duty internet use must not adversely reflect on TSA."
Former TSA employee Monica Stoddard said the page is a symptom of a larger worker morale problem at the agency. Stoddard, who worked for 11 years as a TSA officer at Reagan National Airport, said employees have few places to vent.
“The morale wasn’t a good one,” she said. “(Workers) don’t have an outlet to say what’s going on and speak their minds.”
Stoddard is a member of the private page but said she does not post on it.
“They post a lot of memes, and there’s a lot of frustration in there,” she said.
An audit by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General said TSA needs to improve its efforts to retain employees. The audit cited staff turnover, shortages, pay and “excessive use of overtime” as causes of lower job satisfaction and morale.
Private social media pages are common among public employees, according to University of Maryland social media researcher Jen Golbeck.
“(These groups) start off with good intentions, where it’s a place to have an outlet and talk about frustrations,” Golbeck said. “Then the slightly more extreme things start getting positive feedback. You can see that shift into really inappropriate spaces.”
In one post earlier this summer, a TSA employee wrote, “I just don’t understand why (passengers) b**** and cry about the procedures being different at every airport.” The post added, “So really, I think they are just too damn lazy to follow instructions.”
In another post, an employee wrote, “A (passenger) told me to go f*** myself while I was on my first break today. I feel the day was successful.”
In another post, an employee criticizes a passenger’s note inside luggage which asked officers not to touch items inside the bag. The employee’s post said, “So what do I do? I touch everything in said bag. To add an extra sprinkle of petty, (because) clearly the cow took me there … I took a half stack of inspection notices and threw it in bag and went on about my petty day.”
Latishia Wilson, a TSA employee in Virginia, said the agency can reduce the need for private Facebook pages and messages by holding more town hall meetings and providing better access to managers.
“Have an open-door policy, where an employee can come and let you know what’s going on,” Wilson said.
TSA statement to the News4 I-Team:
The TSA Breakroom Facebook page is not affiliated with TSA. It is a private site that is neither affiliated with nor endorsed by TSA. As such, TSA does not monitor the site.
The Code of Conduct for TSA employees provides that an employee’s off-duty internet use must not adversely reflect on TSA or negatively impact its mission, cause embarrassment to the agency, or cause the public and/or TSA to question the employee’s reliability, judgment, or trustworthiness. Our workforce is strongly encouraged to report illegal or unethical behavior wherever and whenever they see it. Employees can report suspected misconduct to TSA’s Office of Investigations via phone or online. TSA holds its employees to the highest professional and ethical standards and has zero tolerance for illegal and immoral conduct.
Members of the public can make reports by phone, email and other ways as listed here https://www.tsa.gov/contact/customer-service.
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.