The American Federation of Government Employees’ influence at the Transportation Security Administration is once again evident as TSA recently changed a policy AFGE claimed violated the constitutional rights to association and free speech.
After hearing that managers at some airports were removing union literature from TSO break rooms, AFGE wrote to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley, strongly suggesting that he remind all employees and managers of TSOs’ right to post union materials in worksite break rooms.
Just days later, TSA responded with a message to all Federal Security Directors stating that “as a matter of policy FSDs must establish and permit the use of informal bulletin boards for TSA employees.”
“Once again, AFGE is pleased that Administrator Hawley acted quickly in response to our grievance,” said AFGE National President John Gage. “He seems to understand that certain rogue FSDs were denying constitutional rights to TSOs by engaging in a custom of removing union literature from break rooms. Hopefully, the re-issuance of this policy will correct the problem at every airport in the system.”
In AFGE Local 1 v. Stone (502 F3d 1027, 9th Cir. 2007), the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that TSOs have constitutional protections. Moreover, TSA’s own chief counsel in 2005 instructed that employees can “engage in union activities when they are off duty, including when they are on breaks.”
“FSDs are going to have to accept the fact that, like it or not, AFGE is here to stay,” Gage added. “Since TSA’s establishment, the right to union activity has been challenged or outright denied by certain managers; and time after time that right has been upheld.”
AFGE is the largest federal employee union representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia, including tens of thousands of DHS employees in agencies such as the Border Patrol, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Protective Service, FEMA and TSA.
AFGE has been the only union to represent TSA employees since the agency's inception and with members in 129 airports nationwide, is widely recognized as the TSA union.