TSA workforce reform bill takes another step forward

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
One day before the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that spurred the creation of the Transportation Security Administration, a House panel approved a bill that would give TSA employees collective bargaining rights and move them onto the General Schedule pay system.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday passed the 2009 Transportation Security Workforce Enhancement Act (H.R. 1881) 19-10, with no amendments but plenty of arguments on both sides. The vote fell along party lines, with Democrats supporting the measure.

"The right to bargain collectively would be on any list of basic American rights," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. "And it would be on any list of denials you would expect in an authoritarian state."

Proponents of the bill claimed it would reduce attrition at TSA by granting workers protections available to other government employees. But critics claimed the legislation could compromise national security by inhibiting the agency's ability to discipline or fire incompetent employees.

"A lazy screener can mean the deaths of thousands of people," said Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind. "The ability to discipline, and the ability to fire has to be different in this type of situation."

In addition to allowing TSA employees to bargain collectively, the bill would grant them whistleblower rights, 1978 Civil Service Reform Act protections and the opportunity to appeal adverse actions to the Merit Systems Protection Board. It also would move employees out of the Performance Accountability Standards System, TSA's pay-for-performance plan, and onto the General Schedule. In a report issued last week, the Congressional Budget Office estimated this would result in pay hikes for thousands of TSA employees. It would provide an average annual pay increase of $1,700 for 36,000 employees in TSA's bottom two paybands, budget analysts projected.

The House Homeland Security Committee approved the bill in July; it now heads to the House floor. While no vote has been scheduled and there is not yet a companion bill in the Senate, supporters are optimistic about its chances of passing.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., said he expected some Senate Republicans would back it. "This is a lot less controversial than a lot of labor issues," he said.

The bill has strong support from federal labor unions, including the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, which represent employees at TSA. Current law allows agency employees to unionize, but the unions do not have the power to create collective bargaining contracts with TSA managers.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday also approved the FBI Families of Fallen Heroes Act, which would require the Justice Department to cover moving costs for immediate family members of bureau employees who die in the line of duty. The act also would require Justice to pay the costs of transporting the bodies.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.