GOP Senators’ Bid To Strip TSA Bargaining Rights Narrowly Fails

ROGER WICKER: Cites costs and security concerns.

Posted: Friday, February 18, 2011 5:00 pm | Updated: 4:14 pm, Fri Feb 18, 2011.

By FLORA FAIR The Chief | 0 comments

Federal employee unions applauded the U.S. Senate’s defeat last week of an amendment that would have stripped Transportation Safety Administration workers of their newly granted collective-bargaining rights.

Crediting grassroots efforts to reach Senators, officials from the National Treasury Employees Union and the American Federation of Government Employees called the 51-47 vote against the amendment—largely along party lines—good for TSA employee morale and public safety. Both unions are vying to represent TSA workers, who were granted limited collective-bargaining rights by TSA Administrator John Pistole on Feb. 4.
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Senator Cites Security Concerns

The amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization bill, named the Termination of Collective Bargaining for TSA Employees Act, was sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). It would have prevented more than 44,000 Transportation Security Officers from being granted bargaining rights, and would have stripped those rights from more than 10,000 other TSA employees who currently have them.

“FBI, CIA, and Secret Service personnel do not have collective bargaining for good reason, and TSA personnel should be no different,” Sen. Wicker said. “Not only would this change to allow bargaining restrict flexibility, the litigation it creates will lead to significant cost increases for taxpayers.”

In a letter to Senators prior to the vote, NTEU President Colleen Kelley called the amendment “ill-advised on many fronts.” She went on to say that rights had just been granted following a careful review of the issue, which took public safety into account. “This amendment would prevent TSA employees from even the limited collective bargaining just approved by Administrator Pistole,” she said.

‘Rights Will Improve Security’

“AFGE thanks the members of the Senate who said ‘no’ to this irresponsible amendment,” AFGE National President John Gage said. “Workplace rights improve employee morale, which will improve security, not undermine it. In fact, collective bargaining brings with it improved security for passengers. A bargaining agreement would lead to better working conditions, fair promotion and evaluation practices and safer workplaces, and in doing so, increasing morale.”

Ms. Kelley agreed, saying that TSA employees have endured a demoralizing workplace and have one of the highest attrition rates in the government sector. Mr. Gage also made the point that unions cannot bargain over security issues, so there would be no compromise to safety.

Contrary to Senator Wicker’s argument, many Federal employees charged with national security responsibilities, including Customs and Border Protection Officers, Border Patrol Officers, and Bureau of Prisons guards, already have collective bargaining rights. And as with these employees, there are restrictions to what TSA employees can and can’t do with union representation.

A letter-writing campaign was launched earlier this month by both AFGE and NTEU, urging Senators to reject the amendment. Despite last week’s vote, Mr. Wicker called the issue “far from over,” saying that the House of Representatives would consider its own FAA Reauthorization measure.

TSA employees will vote on union representation March 9 through April 19 in an election run by the Federal Labor Relations Association.

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