It took almost 20 years, but for the first time, a president has embraced AFGE’s call for Title 5 rights for TSA officers.
When Congress created TSA right after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it gave the TSA administrator carte blanche to develop the agency’s personnel system for the newly federalized screening workforce.
TSA’s first administrator, under the George W. Bush administration, refused to give Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) the Title 5 workplace rights enjoyed by most federal workers. AFGE later won limited workplace rights for TSOs, but they have been treated like second-class federal workers despite the important work they do protecting the flying public.
That’s about to change.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas June 3 directed TSA administrator David Pekoske to issue a new determination that will give TSOs more workplace rights and give them a pay boost consistent with the General Schedule system, which covers most federal workers.
Mayorkas has a long history with DHS and is very familiar with the issues at TSA. Specifically, Mayorkas’ memo directed TSA to:
- Open the union contract for renegotiation to reflect the rights and benefits under Chapter 71 of Title 5 of the United States Code, which covers most federal workers.
- Ensure fairness and due process by giving TSOs access to the neutral Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) instead of having their cases decided by TSA, as is currently the case. TSOs will also be entitled to appeal MSPB decisions to a Court of Appeals.
- Change the pay system so that it is consistent with the GS locality structure.
- Expand union rights for TSA workers.
Mayorkas assured TSOs that this is happening.
“We will expand collective bargaining rights for non-supervisory Transportation Security Officers to more closely align with bargaining that occurs at other federal agencies under Chapter 71 of Title 5 of the United States Code,” Mayorkas wrote in a June 3 memo to all TSA employees. “I have asked Administrator Pekoske and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator LaJoye to reach out to AFGE leadership to develop the plan for the expansion of your collective bargaining rights consistent with Title 5.”
This is a major victory for AFGE and TSA officers who have worked for two decades to get the rights they deserve.
“This is a win for equity and a defeat for the inexcusable history of disparate treatment of TSOs,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley. “It is extraordinarily gratifying to see such a significant victory today for our union and for these incredible public servants.”
“We’ve been in this battle for nearly 20 years,” said Hydrick Thomas, president of AFGE’s Council 100, which represents nearly 46,000 TSA officers nationwide. “Especially during the last year, it’s been hard for people on the front lines battling the pandemic, short staffing, low pay, and unequal rights.”
“With our union winning this major victory, it’s not just going to help the workers by giving them more rights and better pay, it’s going to help reduce turnover so that the agency can benefit from experienced officers’ expertise.”
Right after the 9/11 attacks, AFGE pushed for TSA’s federalization and started organizing TSOs. We advocated for collective bargaining rights for TSOs, and in February 2011, TSA Administrator John Pistole issued his first Determination granting TSOs limited bargaining rights.
In June 2011, we won an election to officially represent the TSO workforce. Our union has been pushing to put TSOs under the GS pay system and seeking full Title 5 workplace rights for TSOs ever since.
AFGE thanks the Biden administration for making these positive changes. In order to prevent a future TSA administrator from undoing the progress that Secretary Mayorkas is putting into place, AFGE will continue to work for passage of legislation that would grant TSOs full statutory Title 5 protections.
The House bill, H.R. 903, was championed by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson. The Senate version, S.1856, was introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz.
Want more wins like this?
Momentum is on our side, and we’re making real, positive change in people’s lives. There’s never been a better time to join your union and become a part of our movement for better pay, stronger benefits, a decent retirement, and dignity, fairness, and respect on the job.
Join AFGE and ask your coworkers to join AFGE today!