TSA shows concern about toxic uniforms only after union intervenes

by Ron Moore, DC Special Interests Examiner

Responding to the American Federation of Government Employees letter to the Transportation Security Administration complaining about the toxic chemical in the new TSA uniforms and how workers received little help in filing workers' compensation claims, TSA last week issued a memo instructing its Federal Security Directors to help workers fill out the forms if they developed allergies dealing with this health and safety issue. Previously, several Transportation Security Officers reported that their managers either acknowledged the problem but didn't act on it, or refused to help them file a claim.

"We are pleased that TSA listened to our concerns and took some remedial action, but more needs to be done," said AFGE President John Gage. "TSA claims that the level of formaldehyde in the uniforms meets acceptable "legal" limits, but obviously in this case "legal" and "safe" are not necessarily the same thing since workers from airports all over the country are reporting skin rashes and other ailments. Why place the burden on the workers to complain about the uniforms? Why not just issue formaldehyde-free uniforms to begin with?"

AFGE had been contacted by TSOs at airports across the country, including New York, Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, Tampa, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Baltimore. The union recently posted an online survey about the uniform issue on its TSO website. Seventy three percent of those taking the survey reported that they had developed rashes and other irritations caused by the new uniforms.

This is in contrast with what TSA told the Washington Post on January 5th, "A spokesman for TSA said that the problem is not serious or widespread, and that few workers have complained."

"AFGE will continue to assist TSOs who became sick because of the new uniforms in getting the help they need so they can focus on the important job of protecting the flying public," Gage said.

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