ORLANDO, Fla. — U.S. Rep. Darren Soto met with Orlando International Airport TSA workers Monday to discuss claims of bullying, retaliation, and even physical violence brought to light as part of a Spectrum News 13 Watchdog Investigation.
- Rep. Darren Soto hears from Orlando TSA workers, union members
- The TSA workers all described the workplace culture as toxic
- "I can't believe this is just isolated to the Orlando airport," Soto says
"I have no doubt those allegations could be true," Soto said in kicking off the meeting with union leaders.
Soto, a Democrat whose congressional district spans Orange, Osceola, and Polk counties, had asked former and current Transportation Security Administration employees for their thoughts about working conditions at Orlando International.
Every former and current TSA employee in attendance used one word to describe it: "toxic."
"We are very familiar with the reports of verbal abuse, and of course, the tragic death of Mr. (Robert) Henry," Soto said, referring to the TSA worker who publicly committed suicide at the airport in February. "The fact that this has escalated means we need to get to the bottom of this."
Former coworkers of Henry, as well as a suicide note he'd written to his father, indicated that bullying contributed to Henry's death.
When asked about current TSA employees still afraid to come forward and speak, Soto said he hopes positive change can come to the workplace so the government employees can do their jobs effectively.
"Right now, we see a TSA that is continuing to use the threat of firing, and that helps contribute to this hostile environment," Soto said. "What we need is folks in tip-top shape and attitude, because these folks are protecting us from terrorist events."
Spectrum News 13 reach out again to Orlando Federal Security Director Jerry Henderson, who is out on administrative leave, for comment on the workplace culture described by TSA workers there. But Henderson was not available for comment.
According to current TSA employees, since the WatchDog report came out two weeks ago, change has slowly been happening.
"I would say it’s the start, and hopefully the start for a positive end," said Javon Rodriguez, who is the lead transportation security officer for TSA.
"I can’t believe this is just isolated to the Orlando airport," Soto said.
He also said that Congress needs to have hearings on this and start removing people who are responsible.