Negotiations begin for airport screeners

John Gage
Negotiations begin tomorrow for a first collective bargaining agreement for the nation's 44,000 Transportation Security Administration airport screeners.

At Monday's Labor Day parade, I asked John Gage, president of the screeners' union, about the main issues for the 44,000 screeners. Top on the list is a much-hated evaluation system that is part of the reason, he said, that screeners tend to earn less than similar federal employees.

Gage, a former pro-ball player with the Baltimore Orioles, heads the American Federation of Government Employees. You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer story about how the AFGE came to represent the screeners.

He said the evaluation system has very little to do with the necessary skills for the job and may, because of the way it is set up, unfairly disadvantage Hispanic workers.

Staffing is another issue, with people who put in and are approved for vacation time months in advance, being denied their time off close to the date. Gage talked about one person who had to quit to get married, after his approved leave was denied a week before his wedding.

Also, "there is no due process," he said. Discipline is not handed down in a consistent matter. "We have more discipline issues with the TSA than we do with the rest of our federal employees. It's unbelievable."

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