DHS weighing collective bargaining for airport screeners

February 25, 2009

The Homeland Security Department is reviewing a plan to extend collective bargaining rights to Transportation Security Administration workers, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers today.
Federal unions have fought with the department over that issue since TSA was created in 2001. The agency’s authorization allows the secretary to decide whether TSA screeners have bargaining rights. Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta ruled they should not have those rights shortly after the agency was created under his department in 2001. Mineta said having to bargain would hurt TSA, now a DHS agency, when it has to redeploy employees as threats change.
Democrats in Congress tried to overturn that decision, unsuccessfully, during the last session.
At today’s hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, Napolitano said she asked the department’s general counsel whether she has the authority to overturn Mineta’s decision; she said she hasn’t received a response.

“Some of these jobs are very difficult jobs in difficult settings,” Napolitano said of the TSA screening jobs. “We are looking at [collective bargaining] right now from both a legal and a policy standpoint.”
Napolitano was responding to a question from Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who expressed his support for collective bargaining. He said bargaining rights would go a long way toward fixing TSA’s notorious morale problems.

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