(WASHINGTON)—The American Federation of Government Employees is urging members of the House to cosponsor H.R. 3212, a bill introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) that would grant Transportation Security Officers the same workplace rights as other employees in the Department of Homeland Security, and in the federal government.
Granting fundamental labor rights to the TSA workforce will “provide TSOs with a meaningful voice at work that facilitates the development of a highly trained, experience and professional workforce,” AFGE Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten wrote in an open letter to members of the House (letter attached).
Earlier this year, AFGE—the only labor union to represent TSA employees since the agency’s inception—was instrumental in getting collective bargaining language passed in both the House and Senate 9/11 bills. However, due to administration veto threat, that language was removed from the final bill.
Like the 9/11 bills, the Lowey Bill includes repeal of a footnote of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA). The footnote allowed for the TSA Administrator to “employ, appoint, discipline, terminate … [and] establish levels of compensation and other benefits” for TSOs, which is in direct contradiction of other provisions of ATSA that called for all TSA employees to have the same basic labor protections of other federal workers. The bill also requires that TSA treat all of its employees in a uniform and fair manner, and requests a GAO report on the TSO pay system, which is different from the GS system of pay used by most of federal government, including TSA’s PASS system, which has unfairly limited pay increases for TSOs.
In the letter, AFGE says that "the power of TSA management regarding TSOs is almost totally unchecked," arguing that TSA has "argued against the right of TSOs to enforce their First Amendment right of freedom of association, refused to hold itself accountable to the Rehabilitation Act, fired workers/refused hires based on disabilities, refused to be bound by the Office of Special Counsel’s enforcement of whistleblower protections for TSOs, and refused to apply veterans’ preference in promotion and reduction-in-force decisions."
"Denial of basic worker rights and persistent inadequate staffing" has led to "the worst attrition rates, among the highest injury rates and the lowest morale in the federal government," Moten said. "TSOs seek a systematic and fair manner to deal with day-to-day issues in the workplace that, when appropriately resolved, result in a strong, loyal workforce. H.R. 3212 takes the necessary steps toward bringing TSA personnel practices in line with the rest of the federal government."