The controllers are among hundreds of thousands of federal workers forced to work for free during the partial government shutdown.
Miami International Airport closed one of its concourses for half the day on Saturday. Even though the House and Senate voted to provide back pay to the more than 800,000 federal workers nationwide going without pay because of the shutdown, some employees say that will not cut it.
Airport officials say on Twitter that passengers have been leaving notes and doing other kind gestures for the TSA agents since the shutdown began last month.
"I get nervous on flights and having them there really makes there makes me feel more comfortable", said Kyle Gorman. However, some of the officers are still coming in to work.
Agents are reportedly staging "sickouts" - calling in sick in a silent protest at their situation.
According to the AFGE, the TSA once had a workforce of around 47,000 dealing with 740 million passengers a year, but now has 44,000 workers servicing 851 million passengers a year. About 95 per cent waited less than 15 minutes, according to the data.
"We are humbled by the acts of kindness and support from industry and the public, who clearly recognize and admire our officers' efforts", Bilello tweeted.
There are reports of a good number of TSA employees calling out sick around the country, leading to long lines at security checkpoints at some airports. The organization has been trying to encourage government officials to end the shutdown, to the benefit of both shutdown-exempt workers who aren't receiving pay and furloughed members who are now out of a job. The AFGE, whose representation includes more than 44,000 TSA officials, filed its own lawsuit december 31.
The Canada Border Service Agency said while some of the Nexus enrolment centres in Canada are open and completing the Canadian portion of the enrolment process, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection was not processing applications because of the shutdown.
Tampa International Airport is working with local partners to launch a food pantry for federal workers starting Monday. "We've heard of stories at other airports that are experiencing a shortage of personnel". The food pantry, she said, would help keep people motivated to show up.
"Every day I'm getting calls from members about their extreme financial hardships and need for a paycheck", Hydrick Thomas, the organization's TSA Council president, said.
Then over the weekend, travelers reported longer checkpoint lines at some airports, including LaGuardia in NY. It gave few numbers but issued a statement Friday saying that more have been missing work since the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Their work is not getting done, he said.