Passengers and employees working at airports nationwide should not feel unsafe when stepping into the terminals. That’s why AFGE worked with the House and the Senate to pass H.R. 720, the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act, which requires TSA to develop plans for airport attacks and best practices following a shooting death of Transportation Security Officer Geraldo Hernandez at Los Angeles International Airport in 2013.
AFGE worked with House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Bennie Thompson to include language requiring that TSA include an analysis of preparedness for security incidents including “active shooters, acts of terrorism, and incidents that target passenger-screening checkpoints” and a certification to Congress that all screening personnel have participated in practical training exercises for active shooter scenarios”. The bill has recently been signed into law.
This bill is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done for TSA officers who play a critical role in keeping travelers safe. Congress needs to pass the Honoring Our Fallen TSA Officers’ Act, reintroduced by Congresswoman Julia Brownley of California, to extend public safety officers’ benefits to TSA employees, including TSOs, inspectors, air marshals and others, who are killed or traumatically wounded in the line of duty. These frontline workers’ job is to save lives, but they themselves are vulnerable to attacks as they are not allowed to carry weapons. Without this law, if an officer loses his or her life protecting this country, his or her family could go bankrupt as they won’t receive benefits afforded to public safety officers.
Other threats against TSOs and the traveling public include airport privatization, which would return airport security to the pre-9/11 era, and unfair and uneven treatment of TSOs under federal law. TSOs, for example, need the same appeal rights as other federal employees. They need to be covered under the same General Schedule pay scale as most federal employees.
TSOs love their jobs and are fully aware that they are in the business of protecting lives. Treating them right will only make all of us safer.
In addition to training for active shooter situations, AFGE continues to push Congress for a pilot program to explore the use of armed Transportation Security Law Enforcement Officers to protect checkpoints. The position, which would be fully integrated with TSA’s security framework, would be present at the checkpoint to immediately recognize threats and to protect passengers, airport employees and their fellow TSOs.