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Latest News - December 2010

December 23, 2010
Union vote coming for TSA agents?
Source: The Atlanta Journal Constitution
By: Kelly Yamanouchi

Federal security screeners at U.S. airports could vote early next year on whether to join one of two unions, even though neither would have collective bargaining rights unless current policy is changed.

The American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union are waiting for an election to be scheduled, following a November decision by the Federal Labor Relations Authority to process their petitions for an election. Each union has already signed on some Transportation Security Administration officers as members, and the election would decide which one would be their representative.

Valyria Lewis, AFGE Local 555 president, said the union has 12,000 dues-paying members, including about 300 TSA officers  in Atlanta. Members pay dues and are represented by the union in disciplinary actions, and they have other benefits such as a discount prescription drug program, she said.

NTEU national president Colleen Kelley said the NTEU counts about 400 officers as members in Atlanta. TSA has about 50,000 officers nationwide and about 1,100 in Atlanta, according to TSA spokesman Jon Allen.

TSA officer salaries in Atlanta range from about $30,000 to more than $43,000 a year. ..

The TSA was created after the 2001 terror attacks. Congress gave the Bush Administration the ability to waive TSA officers' collective bargaining rights due to their national security responsibilities.

The unions want a new directive from the TSA administrator to grant those rights. The administrator, John Pistole is "performing a thorough review of this issue," according to agency spokesman Jon Allen. Pistole will discuss his review with Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, Allen added.

The unions note that, before his election, President Obama wrote a memo supporting collective bargaining rights for TSA officers.

"We helped him get elected, then the (hot) potato got passed to Napolitano," then to the TSA administrator, Lewis said. Pistole was named TSA administrator earlier this year.

Those who oppose collective bargaining rights for TSA officers point to security issues. U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., for example, has said airport security is "too important to be controlled by union bosses," adding thatallowing collective bargaining  with airport screeners "would undermine homeland security."

Supporters of bargaining rights say screeners are no different from other first-responders, such as firefighters, who are represented.

In addition to negotiating work contracts, Kelley said a union could help involve employees in discussions about policies that affect travelers.

TSA workers "have a real need for a voice through an elected representative," Kelley said. Still, she added, "without collective bargaining nothing will change."

 

 


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