(WASHINGTON)—In what the union expects to be the first of many meetings, American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage on Feb. 20 sat down with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to discuss the Transportation Security Administration and Border Patrol, among other topics. Also at the meeting were AFGE National Border Patrol Council President T.J. Bonner, DHS Chief of Staff for Policy Noah Kroloff and Deputy General Counsel David Martin.
“AFGE thanks Secretary Napolitano for her willingness to meet with AFGE,” Gage said. “We found her to be open to discussions regarding the DHS workforce and our concerns as the bargaining agent for tens of thousands of DHS employees.”
As the union representing the overwhelming majority of DHS workers, AFGE requested the meeting with Secretary Napolitano within days of her confirmation to the post. “We learned from the labor folks in Arizona that Secretary Napolitano was a firm, but fair administrator. This was clear from her record as governor of one of the most aggressively right-to-work states in the country,” Gage said. “It was important to meet with Secretary Napolitano early in her tenure in order to forge a working relationship that supports this agency’s critical mission.”
Gage and Bonner shared with Napolitano the union’s opinion on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, stating that “overhaul of the nation’s system is long overdue” and stressing the need for protection of DHS workers. Also discussed were funding anomalies at Citizenship and Immigration Services and the often poor public perception of Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees.
Gage also focused on the plight of the TSA workforce. While a permanent TSA administrator has yet to be appointed, Gage spoke to the Secretary about the unfair treatment and anti-union actions Transportation Security Officers experience at many of the nation’s airports. He stressed the urgent need for TSOs to be afforded collective bargaining rights—as pledged by President Obama in an October letter to AFGE.
“We don’t believe the Secretary needs to wait for a new administrator to be named to make good on President Obama’s promise to these dedicated employees,” Gage explained. “This can be done immediately by directing the acting administrator to rescind a 2003 directive prohibiting collective bargaining and issue a new directive placing the TSA workforce under Chapter 71 of the Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute.”