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Federal Air Marshal Union Sues Uncle Sam

We Have Nothing to Fear—But Bureaucracy

The Federal Air Marshal Service’s motto—Invisus, Inauditus, Impavidus [Unseen, Unheard, Unafraid] is proving uncannily apposite.

The head of the Federal Air Marshal Service's Philadelphia office is reportedly tampering with performance reviews, pressuring workers to put off necessary medical care, and opening fraudulent investigations in an illegal attempt to harass and suppress his unionized workforce; so alleges the Air Marshal Association (AMA), a labor union representing Federal Air Marshals.

An 08 June complaint filed by the AMA describes instances in which Supervisory Air Marshal in Charge Richard Altomare, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security conspired to harass unionized employees and deny them their right to free speech.

Mr. Altomare—the complaint alleges—undertook a "despicable and targeted" pattern of harassment and intimidation of unionized employees immediately after his 2021 appointment to lead the Philadelphia field office.

In October 2021–the complaint continues—Altomare implemented a policy of pressuring Air Marshals, including one seeking cancer treatment, to forgo using sick leave or other forms of paid time off for medical appointments. Altomare also altered employee performance evaluations for purpose of eliminating or reducing raises, bonuses, or promotions. Altomare further retaliated against employees who spoke out against his policies by selectively targeting them for misconduct reports. The harassment culminated with some employees receiving direct threats.

Air Marshal Association President John Casaretti added, “The Philadelphia field office is in crisis, and workers there have endured a series of failing managers who are devoid of experience and leadership skills.”

The Aviation and Transportation Security Act of the 107th Congress (2001-2002) enacted 19 November 2001 established the Transportation Security Administration, and granted the TSA Administrator broad emergency powers in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Included in these emergency provisions are blanket authorities for the TSA Administrator to create new work rules and systems of compensation.

Casaretti notes, “This unprecedented authority was a human capital disaster, cultivating an environment of management abuse, favoritism and discrimination which resulted in record low employee morale, sky high turnover, unjustly stratified pay, and waves of lawsuits.”

The Philadelphia Field Office debacle is the latest in a long list of woes Air Marshals have endured under the TSA’s inherent nepotism and corruption.

A high instance of commonality among reported medical conditions prompted a federally-commissioned, Harvard University sleep-study of Federal Air Marshals. The study’s findings were suppressed, however, when details of grueling shifts, constant exhaustion, inadequate rest, and cognitive impairment surfaced.

The TSA further misused its authority by rewarding employees via subjective scorecards, thereby engendering favoritism, racism, and retaliation that have given rise to pay differences in excess of  $30,000 between otherwise equal [job description, seniority, productivity] employees.

Currently, Congress is working to remake the TSA via H.R.903–the Rights for the TSA Workforce Act of 2021. The measure passed the House on 12 May 2022. The bills seek to move the TSA from the controversial ATSA systems and place the agency into the established Title-5 systems enjoyed by the majority of government workers.

“The 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks have come and gone, and the experienced Air Marshals hired in response to those attacks have almost all retired. Each of them has paid a high price for patriotism, battling an abusive agency that makes up its own rules. Individually they succeed, but it’s despite the agency and not because of it,” Casaretti says. “We will continue to work with lawmakers to fix this permanently, but we hope the courts will grant us some immediate relief.”

FMI: www.usmarshals.gov


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