Senate upholds TSA bargaining rights

Senate lawmakers on Tuesday voted against legislation that would prevent transportation security officers from receiving recently granted collective bargaining rights.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., on Feb. 2 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.

Other lawmakers, including Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., co-signed the legislation just days after TSA Administrator John Pistole granted airport screeners limited collective bargaining rights.

According to Pistole's Feb. 4 memo, employees will be able to negotiate performance management processes, awards and attendance management guidelines, along with shift bids. They will not be able to bargain over security policies, procedures, or the deployment of security personnel and equipment; pay, pensions and compensation; proficiency testing; job qualifications; and discipline standards. Talks will occur only at the national level.

Created in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, TSA was excluded from federal regulations giving workers bargaining privileges. Agency leaders have the authority to grant those rights but until now, chose not to act.

"Workplace rights improve employee morale, which will improve security, not undermine it," said American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage. "A bargaining agreement would lead to better working conditions, fair promotion and evaluation practices and safer workplaces, and in doing so, increase morale."

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley called the amendment ill-advised and applauded lawmakers for defeating it.

"Collective bargaining helps to develop fair, credible and transparent processes without interfering with management rights to accomplish agency missions," Kelley wrote in letters sent to lawmakers last week. "We can strengthen TSA by providing its workers with such processes, and with a voice in the development of workplace quality standards that will make the traveling public even safer."

NTEU and AFGE are vying for exclusive representation of TSOs. An election is tentatively set to begin March 9.

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