TSA Workers Want Right To Collective Bargaining

Union Hopeful New TSA Administrator Will Agree
The American Federation of Government Employees - a labor union that representing Transportation Security Administration workers - is hopeful that President Obama will make good on his campaign promise to appoint a new TSA Administrator who favors granting them collective bargaining rights.

The Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, which created the TSA, places discretion over collective bargaining in the hands of the TSA administrator. During the Bush administration, the Department of Homeland Security opined that giving workers collective bargaining rights could endanger travelers by adding a layer of labor union negotiations to TSA operations and slow response time to immediate terrorist threats.

Speaking before a congressional committee last month, AFGE President John Gage said it was an "insult, really, to the labor movement to say that somehow having the right to belong to a union somehow affects national security."

As Obama has yet to appoint a new TSA Administrator, the workers' wait goes on. Emily Ryan, a spokeswoman for AFGE, told the Washington Post, "We're sort of in a holding pattern, waiting for DHS or the administration to take some action. We're very confident they will get bargaining rights, but obviously the sooner the better, because things are not getting better there."

Testifying before Congress last month, National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen M. Kelley said that TSA officers routinely face difficult working conditions, including a hostile work environment, job assignments based on favoritism, mandatory extra shifts due to low staffing levels, and split shift assignments which mean 11- to 14-hour work days.

In a letter to the AFGE last October, Obama said, "It is unacceptable for TSOs to work under unfair rules and without workplace protections -- this makes it more difficult for them to perform their jobs. Since 2001, TSA has had the unfettered ability to deny its workforce even the most basic labor rights and protections."

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