What's Next for TSA Officers?

Categories: TSA, The Insider

Every day TSA Officers screen over 1.7 million airline passengers. Every day they stop, on average, 8 guns from getting on to airplanes. And yet, they’re treated like second-class federal employees with lower pay and fewer rights at work — every single day.  

Since TSA Officers rejected the last TSA contract in a ratification vote earlier this year, the AFGE TSA Bargaining Team went back to the table to continue the fight — and they didn’t go alone.  

TSA Officers held rallies across the country, called lawmakers, and appeared in news programs and newspapers across the country. Because of the work they did, 19 of the most powerful members of the U.S. Senate rallied to our cause. Last month, those senators sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and encouraged TSA to give TSA officers the same civil service and labor rights enjoyed by other Department of Homeland Security employees.     

But TSA said ‘No.’   

“They have simply chosen not to respect our efforts to improve the workplace and raise morale for the 43,000 TSA officers who put their lives at risk to protect the flying public,” said Hydrick Thomas, AFGE TSA Council 100 President.  

TSA doesn’t operate like most federal agencies. At any given time, the TSA Administrator can issue new management directives or 'Determinations' that outline labor-management relationship guidelines.  

During the middle of contract negotiations, TSA issued its most recent determination. In it, they declared many of the contract issues we advocated for as ‘non-negotiable.’ TSA’s claim that these items are non-negotiable is simply not true.   

That's why AFGE is taking those provisions to arbitration. The remaining terms will be submitted to a panel of independent arbitrators to determine how those issues will be resolved.   

Although the deck was stacked against them, the negotiating team reached agreement on a majority of the contract.   

Despite TSA's Resistance, the Negotiating Team Made Progress  

Despite the constant excuses and barriers thrown up by the agency's representatives, the AFGE negotiating team made some progress. TSA has agreed to:  

  • Guaranteed free parking for the term of the contract  
  • Ability of up to 5 percent of an airport’s workforce to bid on a new certification (i.e. passenger or baggage) during shift bid  
  • An increase in the uniform allowance  
  • Cargo pants may be worn at the checkpoint  
  • Tattoos do not have to be covered unless they are obscene, racially/ethnically derogatory, and/or criminal gang tattoos    
  • Improvements to help union stewards with employee representation   
  • Some employees will now be able to bid up to four weeks of annual leave  
  • More jackets may be worn at the checkpoint (i.e. Ike jacket, 3-in-1 jacket, and team jacket)  
  • Additional items are available for purchase on VF Solutions (e.g. black T-shirts, summer socks, and sports bras)  
  • Management cannot mandate that employees clock-in or clock-out for lunch breaks  
  • Management is required to select a limited number of special assignments by seniority order  
  • Shorts may be worn from Memorial Day to Labor Day   
  • Establishment of a new veterans committee.   

Now, the negotiating team will help explain the new contract and meet with TSA bargaining unit employees to determine if the contract should be ratified. No matter what happens, AFGE remains the exclusive union representative for TSA Officers.   

TSA Officers may never get a fair contract until Congress steps up and holds TSA management’s feet to the fire. AFGE members have been relentless in their conversations with lawmakers about the hardships that TSA Officers face.   

Currently, a bill in Congress, the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act (H.R. 4488), has 73 cosponsors and the list is growing. This law would put TSA Officers on the General Schedule pay scale and provide them with much needed worker protections like the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.   

For now, AFGE will continue working on behalf of TSA officers in demanding they receive the respect and fair treatment they deserve.  

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