Regional FLRA official denies petitions for union election at TSA

A Federal Labor Relations Authority regional director has dismissed two major unions' bids for an election to determine representation for 40,000 Transportation Security Administration employees.

Acting Chicago Regional Director Peter Sutton cited a 2003 decision by the full FLRA, that it did not have jurisdiction over such petitions because TSA employees lack collective bargaining rights.

Officials from the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, which both would like to represent the TSA employees, said they were not surprised by the regional director's rejection and noted it opens the door for an appeal to the full FLRA.

Cathie McQuiston, deputy director of membership and organization at AFGE, said the union is optimistic the full body will take a fresh look at the issue.

"A lot has happened in the seven years since we first took this matter to the FLRA," she said.

According to McQuiston, TSA has allowed union representation at its privatized airports and the National Labor Relations Board already has established jurisdiction over petitions affecting transportation security officers.

"We are only asking that TSA management treat all TSOs with an even hand and permit the holding of an election for federalized screeners under the FLRA's process," she said.

AFGE and NTEU officials said they will file applications for review of the regional director's decision within the 60 day deadline. The quasi-judicial body then will have another 60 days to issue a response. "AFGE intends to file an appeal as soon as possible, and we expect the FLRA will, in turn, make a swift decision in our favor," McQuiston said.

While the unions await the FLRA's decision, President Colleen Kelley said NTEU will continue to engage in an aggressive organizing campaign among TSA employees and to press the Obama administration for collective bargaining rights at the agency.

A directive to that effect would "clear the way for a representation election that would bring to the TSA workplace a mechanism for the voices of front-line employees to be heard," she said. The union also will continue to seek legislation to provide for collective bargaining rights.

"TSA has yet to reach the status sought for it by Congress of a world-class transportation protection agency," Kelley said. "It is troubled by high turnover, low morale, low pay and a variety of day-to-day workplace issues that collective bargaining is best-equipped to address."

AFGE officials said they hoped President Obama's nomination of John Pistole to head the agency could mark a new beginning.

"Pistole appears to have a deep commitment to public service and sees the value in a federalized workforce," said Sharon Pinnock, AFGE membership and organization director. "From what we have learned of his background, he seems to have extensive experience developing relationships between domestic law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This bodes well for his chances to be quickly confirmed, which will move us one step closer to the bargaining rights we have been seeking for some eight years now."

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