AFGE Takes TSA To Court; Vows To Continue Court Actions To Safeguard Rights Of Screeners
(Washington, D.C.)—“We’re going to keep going to court until TSA realizes that the laws of our nation apply to all citizens—even TSA screeners,” said AFGE National President Bobby L. Harnage, Sr., in response to the union’s lawsuit, filed late yesterday in District Court.
The union’s suit (Case No. 030876) charges TSA with violating the right of free speech and association under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the lawsuit charges TSA Administrator James Loy, in his official capacity, and the supervisor at the Pittsburgh International Airport, in her individual capacity, with violating the First Amendment when a screener was disciplined for talking about union representation, after the screener and his team had been dismissed and were no longer on duty.
AFGE’s lawsuit asks the court to remove the written warning from the plaintiff’s personnel file and enjoin the defendants from retaliating against the plaintiff by considering his protected activities for any purpose, including any purpose relating to the upcoming reduction in force announced recently by TSA.
The case arose when a TSA supervisor dismissed a team of Pittsburgh screeners five minutes before their shift ended. The supervisor went so far as to repeat her dismissal, saying “what part of dismissed don’t you understand.” Assuming he was off duty as was past practice when the supervisor “dismissed” the screeners, the plaintiff announced that he had union applications if anyone was interested.
The next morning the plaintiff was notified by the supervisor that his presence was required for a meeting. At the meeting, the plaintiff was told that he was being given a “written warning” for talking on agency time about the union.
This suit is unique in that the plaintiff is being forced to seek court intervention instead of avenues available to other federal employees; i.e., a negotiated grievance procedure or an unfair labor practice.