Lawmaker proposes ban on TSA collective bargaining

A Senate lawmaker wants to bar transportation security officers from collective bargaining rights, citing national security concerns.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., on Wednesday introduced the Termination of Collective Bargaining for Transportation Security Administration Employees Act, an amendment to Federal Aviation Administration authorization legislation that would prevent more than 40,000 TSA workers from being granted collective bargaining rights. The amendment also would strip those rights from more than 10,000 additional TSA employees who currently have them.

"Burdensome and costly union demands could limit the ability of those responsible for security at some of the most high-risk targets to do their job," said Wicker. "The FBI, the CIA and the Secret Service do not have collective bargaining rights for good reason."

"TSA employees labor under a system that has almost completely demoralized them," NTEU President Colleen Kelley wrote in a Feb. 2 letter to Wicker. "Poor workforce management has led to one of the highest attrition rates in government and high on-the-job injuries…Collective bargaining helps to develop fair, credible and transparent processes without interfering with management rights to accomplish agency missions."

Created in 2001, TSA was excluded from federal regulations giving workers collective bargaining rights. Agency leaders have the authority to grant those rights but have chosen not to act. TSA Administrator John Pistole has reviewed the issue but has yet to make a decision.

"Collective bargaining is in fact a benefit for national security because it empowers workers to voice opinions and make suggestions without fear of retribution," American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage said. "It is an absolute insult to say that with a collective bargaining agreement, TSOs couldn't fulfill the mission of TSA, of [the Homeland Security Department] and of the United States of America."

TSA workers also have been without union representation, but that could change as soon as April. The Federal Labor Relations Authority in January tentatively set the agency's union election to begin March 9. AFGE and the National Treasury Employees Union have been vying for exclusive representation of TSA employees.

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