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TSA Workers Inch Closer To Obtaining More Rights

TSA Workers Inch Closer To Obtaining More Rights

Joe Davidson | The Washington Post via YellowBrix

September 15, 2009

The current system has led to an “almost completely demoralized” workforce, Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a letter to committee members. “Passage of this bill will allow TSA to become a world-class airport security agency by retaining experienced employees and reducing costs created by high attrition rates,” she added after the committee’s vote on the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.)

The NTEU and AFGE are signing up members and positioning themselves for union elections in the event that collective-bargaining rights are won.

When Congress created the TSA in 2001, it gave the new agency “nearly unqualified authority to define all terms of pay, benefits and conditions of employment,” Towns told the committee. It then used that power to exempt itself from a variety of laws that govern the rest of civil service, including the rights workers have through the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Whistleblower Protection Act and the Office of Special Counsel.

The Transportation Workforce Enhancement Act, which was approved by the House Homeland Security Committee in July, would repeal the TSA’s authority to have its own personnel management system. Employees would move into the regular civil service with a promise they would lose no pay.

The House passed similar legislation in 2007, but President George W. Bush threatened a veto and the measure was abandoned.

A similar White House threat is unlikely this time. “President Obama has supported these protections,” Towns said.

On a related note, AFGE President John Gage welcomed President Obama’s appointment of Erroll G. Southers as the new head of the Transportation Security Administration with a statement that praised his own union more than Southers or Obama.

“We are very pleased that the administration has heard AFGE on the dire need for a TSA administrator to be appointed,” Gage said before listing the ways AFGE pushed for worker rights.

Southers, a former FBI agent, is the assistant chief for the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department Office of Homeland Security and Intelligence and associate director at the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events at the University of Southern California. ad_icon

The text of the legislation and the CBO estimate.

Contact Joe Davidson at federaldiary@washpost.com.

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