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The House Committee on Homeland Security Jan. 29 approved a bill that would move Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) under the Title 5 personnel system and the General Schedule pay scale, which cover most federal employees.
The law would give TSOs equal collective bargaining rights and finally ensure these officers have the same workplace rights as other federal workers.
AFGE, which represents 45,000 TSOs nationwide, is now working with members of Congress to get the bipartisan bill, H.R. 1140, to the House floor for a vote. Once it passes the House, it will then head to the Senate. The Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act was introduced by House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. It currently has 238 co-sponsors.
TSOs are among the lowest paid federal employees and are not on the same pay scale as their Department of Homeland Security counterparts. In addition, they don’t have the same workplace protections and rights to appeal unfair treatment to a neutral third party like other federal employees. As a result, the morale is low and turnover is high. TSA has been at or near the bottom in every annual employee satisfaction survey.
“It’s past time we protect these public servants who risk their lives every day to help us reach our destinations safely,” said AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley.
In his statement supporting the bill, Chairman Thompson explained to his colleagues why Congress needed to pass the bill: TSOs risk their lives protecting the American public, but they are among the lowest paid federal workers. They have no retention pay. Those working at the agency for 10-15 years are still at the bottom of the pay band. They live from paycheck to paycheck, as perfectly illustrated by the well-documented struggles of TSOs during the 35-day government shutdown when they were forced to work without pay for weeks. TSOs need to be moved to Title 5 so they get the regular pay increase and workplace protections that they deserve.
“The frontline workforce at TSA has been waiting for nearly two decades to get the rights, compensation, and protections that most other federal workers take for granted. Under H.R. 1140, that would happen,” Rep. Thompson said during the bill’s markup.
Representatives from AFGE TSA Council were in the room and were happy that the bill is moving forward. AFGE TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas said the bill would boost morale.
“There are employees who have been with TSA for 17 years and only make $39-42,000 a year. After 17 years of service, putting your life on the line to protect others,” Thomas said. “Pay is the morale booster. Employees need to feel they get paid for the work they’re doing.”