Pistole confirmed as TSA chief
By The Post's Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson:
After three tries, the Obama administration finally has an administrator for the Transportation Security Administration. John Pistole, who was deputy director of the FBI, was confirmed by the Senate Friday, with a voice vote.
Two previous nominees withdrew, leaving the Department of Homeland Security agency without a permanent administrator since President Obama took office. One withdrew following disclosures that he provided Congress and the White House misleading information about incidents two decades ago. The second dropped out after senators questioned his business and personal dealings as a military contractor.
While the air, rail and trucking issues the TSA oversees are critical to safety and security, the two largest federal employee unions have taken a strong interest in the position because of their desire to win collective bargaining rights for about 50,000 transportation security officers (TSO).
During his confirmation hearings, Pistole took no position on collective bargaining rights for TSOs, saying he would review the issue if his nomination were approved. In response to a question, however, he did say that collective bargaining at the FBI would not improve national security.
“It is essential that TSOs are afforded the same rights to negotiate over important workplace issues, due process, whistleblower protections, veterans’ preference, appropriate salaries, fair pay increases, and leave policies as other federal workers — including other Department of Homeland Security employees, including those working for the Border Patrol, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Coast Guard, Federal Protective Service, FEMA, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees.
Both AFGE and the National Treasury Employees Union plan to meet with Pistole to press their case that collective bargaining would in no way compromise national security or the ability of the TSA to deploy its employees to meet any situation.
“The best way to aid TSA in reaching the goals Congress set for it, and that the traveling public expects of TSA, is for its workforce to have a meaningful voice,” said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley, “and no mechanism provides such a voice as well as the right to bargain collectively.”
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