The 35-day government shutdown showed how important TSA officers are to the safety and security of air travelers. Airlines simply cannot operate without them. The lives of passengers and airline employees are put at tremendous risk without them.
Despite the important work that they do, TSA officers are among the lowest-paid federal employees with fewer workplace rights and protections compared to other federal employees. That’s because when TSA was created in 2001, the agency was excluded from federal laws and OPM guidance giving workers the right to bargaining collectively for better working conditions.
Since the creation of TSA, our union worked tirelessly to push Congresses and administrations to grant these employees collective bargaining rights, and we won these rights, albeit on a limited basis, in 2011.
As a union representing TSA officers across the country, we have been working hard to ensure these officers have the resources and support to do their jobs. We know that passengers’ lives are on the line. The stress of dealing with discrimination and retaliation in the workplace makes it harder for TSA officers to focus on the duties of detecting weapons or explosive devices.
This week, we are happy to announce that we are one step closer to winning full workplace rights and protections for our TSA officers.
Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) and Nita Lowey (D-New York) have reintroduced a bill, the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act of 2019, that would lift the agency’s dismally-low employee morale and decrease the high turnover rate for officers.
Here’s what the bill, H.R. 1140, would do:
Give TSA officers full collective bargaining rights to negotiate for better working conditions
Put TSA officers on the General Schedule pay scale which most federal employees are under
Provide officers with much needed statutory worker protections such as the Rehabilitation Act against unfair labor practices
“Our frontline TSOs keep our skies safe every day, while receiving some of the lowest pay and barebones workforce rights in the federal government,” said Rep. Thompson in introducing the bill. “This last Trump Shutdown put on sharp display the incredible amount of stress our TSOs are under.”
“These roughly 44,000 federal employees have been denied basic worker rights and protections for far too long, and it is long overdue that they receive the same treatment as their fellow employees across the federal government,” Rep. Lowey said.
They deserve better
TSA officers worked without pay for 35 days during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Many had to take on second jobs, rely on food banks and donations, and apply for food stamps and other government assistance just to make ends meet. The shutdown exacerbated an already strained TSO workforce at an agency plagued with high turnover and low employee morale. But they continued to serve during the shutdown.
“They continued to serve our country and keep the flying public safe— while not knowing when they would be paid again,” said AFGE TSA Council 100 president Hydrick Thomas. “It’s past time these dedicated officers receive fair treatment in the workplace.”
“The 35-day shutdown severely impacted our TSA officers,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “TSOs took an oath to protect us, but doing so while worrying about eviction, the ability to feed their families, and pay bus fare to get to work, put this safety at risk. We are thankful for the continuous support our officers have received from Representatives Thompson and Lowey. Putting in place the proper workplace protections for these officers is the least Congress can do to help make them whole again after the shutdown.”
Our union is urging Congress to pass the bill to make our airports more secure by providing workplace fairness to the TSA officers who protect the flying public.