Lawmakers Urge TSA to Return to Negotiating Table with Union

Categories: TSA, The Insider

Democratic representatives on the House Committee on Homeland Security sent a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske expressing concerns over Pekoske’s refusal to say for certain during a recent congressional hearing whether he would negotiate a new contract with TSA officers. The current collective bargaining agreement between AFGE and TSA expires in December.

TSA has had difficulties recruiting officers due to low pay, poor working conditions, and leadership issues. During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the agency hired more than 19,300 TSA officers, but 15,000 officers left during the same period.

“Given TSA’s workforce retention challenges, we were surprised and concerned by your refusal to commit at the hearing to continuing to allow collective bargaining past December 2019,” said the lawmakers led by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson. “Collective bargaining provides an important avenue to addressing systematic workforce issues like those identified by the DHS OIG and employee surveys. Continuing to allow collective bargaining is critical to improving retention.”

The lawmakers also told Pekoske that TSA’s national advisory council comprised of TSA officers and leadership is “no substitute for formal collective bargaining.” They asked to meet with TSA no later than May 17.

Our union thanks the lawmakers for standing up for TSA officers, who earlier this year had to work without pay for 35 days after the Trump administration shut down the government.

“After everything these workers have been through over the past few months, including working without pay for 35 days during the longest government shutdown in history, it’s ridiculous that TSA Administrator Pekoske can’t say for certain whether TSA will sit down to negotiate a new contract,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “TSA officers shouldn’t have to bear the stress and anxiety of this kind of needless uncertainty. These officers risk their lives to protect us, and they should be rewarded for their sacrifice— not undermined by their managers at every turn.”

Collective bargaining = safety

Collective bargaining has a positive and direct impact on aviation security. It addresses workplace concerns of the TSO workforce which, if unaddressed, contribute to retention and morale issues that impact security.

In the 2018 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, TSA ranked last in employee pay satisfaction out of 410 federal agencies. TSOs are leaving the agency in droves. Low pay, the lack of standard workplace benefits, and poor management have severely decreased employee morale, while attrition has skyrocketed.

“We worked for 35 days with no pay during the longest government shutdown in history. We take pride in the work we do to protect our country, but we’re treated like second-class federal employees,” said AFGE TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas.

In March, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General released a watchdog report on TSA’s failure to hire, recruit, and retain workers, which has resulted in high turnover rates. Poor management – including disrespect, fostering a negative work environment, and lack of trust – was one of the six main reasons cited in the report for why TSA officers leave their jobs.

AFGE thanks the members of the House Committee on Homeland Security for taking the necessary steps to ensure these workers are treated fairly and have a voice at the workplace. We look forward to working with Congress and TSA to improve working conditions for TSOs.

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