(WASHINGTON, DC)—Once again, in the name of national security, the Bush administration is trying to blow a hole in the Bill of Rights, as it seeks to prevent workers at the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) from exercising their First Amendment rights of free association.
Even as workers at Pittsburgh International Airport and Chicago’s Midway Airport petitioned the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to clear the way for the formation of local union chapters of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) to represent them, Admiral James Loy, under secretary of the transportation for security, signed an order prohibiting collective bargaining by TSA baggage screeners. Admiral Loy asserts that union representation of its workers denies the agency the “flexibility” required to wage the war against terrorism.
“This is a ruse if there ever was one,” asserted AFGE National President Bobby L. Harnage, Sr. “Admiral Loy surely knows that the administration already has the flexibility to suspend collective bargaining during a true national emergency. Additionally, through the collective bargaining process itself, the admiral’s concern could be thoughtfully addressed. The Bush administration has shown once again that the war it cares about most is the one it is waging against the U.S. Government workforce.”
When the events of September 11 brought to light the ineptitude and corruption of an airport security system sold to contractors, Congress—bending to the will of the American public—ordered that baggage screeners be part of the federal workforce. But without union protection, those federal workers have sometimes been forced by management to jeopardize the security of the American people, and some have experienced retaliation.
AFGE’s telephones have been ringing off the hook as TSA employees call with reports of unscheduled shift changes, forced overtime, sexual harassment, delayed paychecks and the agency’s failure to provide protective equipment for baggage handlers searching for explosives. Only under union protection will these workers have the assurances they need in order to do the best job possible for the American people.
“The admiral’s order is by no means the last word,” asserts Harnage. “In the coming days, AFGE will submit petitions for the formation of other airport locals to the FLRA for representation of TSA screeners. We believe Admiral Loy’s order, which would deny airport screeners and baggage handlers the right to join a union, to be unlawful.
“These employees want a union, they deserve a union and they are entitled as Americans to have a union,” said Harnage. “We intend to see that their freedoms are upheld. The gauntlet has been thrown; we will not run from it.”Related LinksMemo from Under Secretary Loy on Collective Bargaining
, 01/08/2003U.S. Transportation Leader Acts to Stop Screeners' Union Effort
- The New York Times, 01/09/2003Transportation security chief says no to collective bargaining
- GovExec.com, 01/09/2003