WASHINGTON — The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents over 44,000 workers at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), joins House Democrats in urging the TSA to uphold TSA officers’ collective bargaining rights and to work with the union on a new contract.
Last week, Democratic representatives on the House Committee on Homeland Security sent a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske imploring him to commit to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with TSA officers (TSOs). The letter was prompted by a recent House committee hearing where Pekoske refused to say for certain whether he would negotiate a new contract with TSOs. The current collective bargaining agreement between AFGE and TSA expires in December.
“After everything these workers have been through over the past few months, including working without pay for 35 days during the longest government shutdown in history, it’s ridiculous that TSA Administrator Pekoske can’t say for certain whether TSA will sit down to negotiate a new contract,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “TSA officers shouldn’t have to bear the stress and anxiety of this kind of needless uncertainty. These officers risk their lives to protect us, and they should be rewarded for their sacrifice— not undermined by their managers at every turn.”
Collective bargaining has a positive and direct impact on aviation security. It addresses workplace concerns of the TSO workforce which, if unaddressed, contribute to retention and morale issues that impact security.
In the 2018 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, TSA ranked last in employee pay satisfaction out of 410 federal agencies. TSOs are leaving the agency in droves. Low pay, the lack of standard workplace benefits, and poor management have severely decreased employee morale, while attrition has skyrocketed.
“We worked for 35 days with no pay during the longest government shutdown in history. We take pride in the work we do to protect our country, but we’re treated like second-class federal employees,” said AFGE TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas.
In March, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General released a watchdog report on TSA’s failure to hire, recruit, and retain workers, which has resulted in high turnover rates. Poor management – including disrespect, fostering a negative work environment, and lack of trust – was one of the six main reasons cited in the report for why TSA officers leave their jobs.
“Collective bargaining provides an important avenue to addressing systematic workforce issues like those identified by the DHS OIG and employee surveys,” House Democrats wrote in the May 2 letter. “Continuing to allow collective bargaining is critical to improving retention.”
At the hearing, Pekoske highlighted TSA’s national advisory council as an avenue to improve communication with the TSO workforce. However, House Democrats say the advisory council is not a substitute for formal collective bargaining.
AFGE thanks the members of the House Committee on Homeland Security for taking the necessary steps to ensure these workers are treated fairly and have a voice at the workplace. We look forward to working with Congress and TSA to improve working conditions for TSOs.