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Sat, Feb 05, 2011

Yet Another TSA Mis-Step? TSA Allows For Collective Bargaining

New Determination Allows Transportation Security Officers To Vote

Affirming the fears of those who see the TSA on a never-ending spiral toward trouble, TSA Boss John Pistole has decided to allow Transportation Security Officers to engage in collective bargaining... despite the original promise that no aspect of the TSA would be allowed to such union activity when it was created in the wake of the fear and hysteria following 9/11.

U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John Pistole has issued a controversial Determination that 'provides a framework to protect TSA’s ability to respond to evolving threats while allowing Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) to vote on whether or not they wish to be represented by a union for the purposes of engaging in limited, clearly defined collective bargaining at the national level only on non-security employment issues. If a union is chosen, each security officer will retain the right to choose whether or not to join the union.'

Representative John L. Mica (R), who was instrumental in the creation of TSA and has been sharply critical of the organization's recent direction opined that, “This will be President Obama’s biggest gift to organized labor..." and added that the decision was, "all bad news for the traveler, the taxpayer and aviation security,” ostensibly because it might tend to inhibit limit the flexibility of the agency, though Pistole assures otherwise.


TSA Administrator Pistole

“The safety of the traveling public is our top priority and we will not negotiate on security,” said TSA Administrator Pistole. “But morale and employee engagement cannot be separated from achieving superior security. If security officers vote to move forward with collective bargaining, this framework will ensure that TSA retains the capability and flexibility necessary to respond to evolving threats, and continue improving employee engagement, performance and professional development.”

This framework is unique to TSA in that it allows for bargaining at the national level only – while prohibiting local-level bargaining at individual airports – on certain employment issues such as shift bids, transfers and awards. Pistole’s Determination prohibits bargaining on any topics that might affect security, such as:

  • Security policies, procedures or the deployment of security personnel or equipment
  • Pay, pensions and any form of compensation
  • Proficiency testing
  • Job qualifications
  • Discipline standards

TSA statements add that the Determination strictly prohibits officers from striking or engaging in work slowdowns of any kind (which has not stopped other governmental unions from such actions... -- ed.)

Last November, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) issued a decision that called for an election among TSOs to determine whether a majority of officers wished to have exclusive union representation for purposes other than collective bargaining. Pistole’s Determination allows this election to move forward, consistent with TSA's security mission and conducted under his Determination’s carefully defined framework.

Under the legislation that created TSA, Congress expressly granted the TSA Administrator sole authority to establish the terms and conditions of employment for security officers at airports.

Administrator Pistole pledged during his confirmation hearings that he would complete a thorough assessment of the impact collective bargaining might have on the safety and security of the traveling public. The recently completed assessment included a review of employee data, a broad range of conversations, input from employees, TSA management and from the two union presidents, as well as interviews with the present and former leaders of a variety of security and law enforcement agencies and organizations. These included federal, state, and local government agencies such as the NYPD and Customs and Border Protection and employers of unionized guards at a number of national security facilities such as secure nuclear weapon and Department of Defense facilities, as well as experts on labor relations in high performance organizations. Interviews were also conducted with management at two airports that are part of TSA’s Screening Partnership Program that have unionized contracted screeners.

TSA notes that during its formative years, collective bargaining was prohibited, although membership in a union was not. More than 13,000 TSOs are currently paying dues to one or more labor unions, but the unions provide personal rather than collective representation and cannot bargain on behalf of the officers.

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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