(Washington, D.C.)—At a news conference held this morning at AFGE Headquarters, the union’s National President Bobby L. Harnage, Sr., announced the charter of its newest Local—a nationwide Local to represent employees working for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
“These employees desperately need a collective voice on the job now and AFGE is going to make sure they have that voice,” Harnage stated at the news conference.
“AFGE may not be able to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement at the moment, but we sure as hell can provide them with representation in other critical areas, such as on Capitol Hill, in the courts and at their workplaces” Harnage added. “We can represent them at grievance hearings, EEO complaints and workers’ compensation cases. We can file unfair labor practices, lobby Congress, make sure their whistleblower rights are protected and ensure their own safety at the worksite. And that’s just what we’re going to do.”
TSA employees have been forced to work mandatory six- and seven-day workweeks and 10- and 12-hour shifts. Some employees have been forced to work 21 straight hours. Supervisors continually cancel leave and regularly change work schedules without notice, not for national security reasons, but based on poor management. Baggage handlers are forced to go through luggage for explosives in open areas of airports—without any protective barriers for the public or themselves. Some employees have been without paychecks for up to six weeks and, unfortunately, some employees have experienced sexual harassment on the job.
“If airport screeners and baggage handlers are to keep our skies safe, working conditions must improve—and improve dramatically,” Harnage emphasized.
“No one is more interested in making our nation’s airports secure than the dedicated men and women working for the Transportation Security Administration. They are the frontline guardians against terrorist attacks at our airports and in the skies,” Harnage stated. “AFGE supports the important mission the Transportation Security Administration plays in protecting America. Our desire is to work with the agency to resolve employee concerns cooperatively and quickly.”
“The Bush Administration says that federal workers tasked with our safety and security don’t have the right to bargain collectively on issues like their own safety and security,” Harnage pointed out. “The Bush Administration says that being a union member is incompatible with our nation’s war against terrorism. The Bush Administration is wrong.”
“So, what is the Bush Administration’s true agenda when it claims that the TSA workforce shouldn’t have the same rights that private sector screeners and baggage handlers will enjoy?” Harnage questioned. “It certainly isn’t for the ‘flexibilities’ that Bush claims he needs. Where I come from, we call Bush’s ‘flexibilities’ just plain old Texas BS and union-busting.”