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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 02/ 8/2011

GOP trying again to block TSA collective bargaining rights

By Ed O'Keefe

GOP lawmakers are launching what could be the first of several efforts to keep some of the government's most high-profile workers from gaining greater union rights.

Republicans have kept union representatives from negotiating on behalf of airport security screeners since Congress established the Transportation Security Administration after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and with the Obama administration on the verge of granting limited collective bargaining rights to transportation security officers, they're trying again.

Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) are cosponsoring an amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill that would prohibit TSA screeners from having collective bargaining rights.

Under their amendment, the 40,000 transportation security officers could still join a union, would be protected through by the Whistleblower Protection Act and could appeal personnel concerns to the Merit Systems Protection Board. But union representatives couldn't negotiate on behalf of the workers.

The legislation is necessary because TSA workers with collective bargaining rights could hamper national security, Wicker said in a statement announcing the proposed amendment. Republican critics have long feared that union representatives might step in to stop or stall the redeployment of TSA screeners if they have to be moved for security reasons.

The Wicker-Collins-Coburn amendment won't get a vote before the Senate adjourns Tuesday. Even if it fails in the Senate, the issue may come up again in the Republican-led House.

The limited collective bargaining rights granted last week by TSA Administrator John Pistole don't allow for negotiations on issues related to national security, including the deployment of personnel, the use of equipment and technology and security policies and procedures.

Furthermore, Pistole says those restrictions will have the "broadest possible interpretation," meaning there's very little union representatives can discuss with TSA anyway.

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union -- one of two major unions vying to represent all TSOs (the American Federation of Government Employees is the other) says Vicker's amendment is "ill-conceived" and appears to ignore the limits Pistole already put in place.

The lack of collective bargaining rights has left workers struggling "under a system that has almost completely demoralized them, contributing to one of the highest attrition rates in the government and high rates of on-the-job injuries," Kelley said.

Besides, she said, workers at other federal security agencies -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Bureau of Prisons -- already have collective bargaining rights.

Bottom line: TSA workers and the unions that want to represent them scored a good victory late last week, but this issue hasn't been settled yet.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 8, 2011; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

So, this is the "mandate" that the American people gave the GOP in November? The American people want jobs, but not jobs where they don't have control. GOP policy, give them just enough to survive, but not enough to actually prosper. They need to keep 80% of all money in the hands of 2% of the American poeople. That is the only way to keep hold of their power. That, and put Glenn Beck on TV for hours each day to scare the living shee-it out of the old and senile.

Posted by: Raptoraddict | February 8, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I remember Senators Phil Graham and Fred Thompson taking to the floor of the Senate and demonizing attempts by the Border Patrol Officers to unionize. You might well have imagined that the Union might just collapse under that enormous weight of collective barganing given to a few thousand agents. Border Patrol officers were provided house trailers which were miles from anything, and often isolated where the family was expected to live in the desert. Many of these homes became targets for the illegals and smugglers who often shot them full of holes to intimidate the families. Try driving 60 miles to the nearest school or drug store and getting to the grocery store was an even greater challenge. At that time the Border Patrol was a part of the Justice Department and to here the Senators, our national security would have been compromised by allowing these officers to have a voice in their assignments and working conditions.

Fast forward to the TSA, and again the same old and tired arguments are once again being made, all in the name of national security. Last time I checked on things, there were very few TSA Officers who had much of a say so on anything related to national security. Why not just take off the disguise of security and just come out and say we don't like unions of any kind because it might just cut into actually providing a voice for the employees tasked to do this vital job. Better still, lets go back to the days when it was felt that women should be kept barefoot and pregnant.

Posted by: olddesert_rat | February 8, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

The GOP ALWAYS comes down against the workers...so why, again, do working people support the GOP?

Posted by: info53 | February 8, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Instead of worrying about the TSA, why doesn't the GOP concentrate of creating jobs. They are wasting so much time in doing absolutely nothing, except for their drunken parties and stupid retreats. When are they going to start to work. They have had so much time off since they took over its sickening. And the this months schedule is not any better. They are lazy and incompetent.

Posted by: sumo1 | February 8, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Instead of worrying about the TSA, why doesn't the GOP concentrate of creating jobs. They are wasting so much time in doing absolutely nothing, except for their drunken parties and stupid retreats. When are they going to start to work. They have had so much time off since they took over its sickening. And this months schedule is not any better. They are lazy and incompetent.

Posted by: sumo1 | February 8, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Name a business that is better off, smarter, or more efficient in any way because its workforce unionized. Union ranks in the private sector have been dwindling because the lavish pensions, benefits, work rules, and higher-than-fair-market pay they fight for damage every company that has to compete in the free market. What to do? Unionize gov't ranks that do NOT compete wirh the free market. Then it's only a matter of grabbing more and more tax revenue. Some for the workers, some for the big unions coffers...and of course some for the Democratic Party. If you want longer lines at the airport, you will get your wish...

Posted by: TelecomSteve | February 8, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

We need to shut TSA down and save taxpayers the money. Since when do former fast food workers make us safer? No union makes for a leaner more efficient operation so the last thing these jokers need is union representation. I agree with the GOP on that but I want my reps to close TSA down.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 8, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

info53...they are not coming down on the workers. It looks more to me like a Republican effort to keep control of TSA management matters within government and not cede some parts of that control to a big union who's interests differ greatly from the national security responsibility of the TSA. It's a bald faced political move by the Dems for their union benefactors and the Republican response should be expected (and welcome by me). The TSA employees will be better off without union intervention.

Posted by: TelecomSteve | February 8, 2011 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I have got to say that if TSA unionizes, they will have absolutely no reason to be efficient, hard-working, and polite. None of those characteristcis apply to them now, I realize, but it will be even worse. They aren't abused, they're disgruntled because their jobs are viewed with contempt and suspiscion by the public. They couldn't protect a flea from terrorists but they get to paw throw our underwear. Not a classy career choice.

Posted by: hebe1 | February 8, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

"info53...they are not coming down on the workers."

You'd have a slim chance at some credibility if the facts didn't show that the GOP is overwhelmingly anti-union and anti-worker. They side with Big Business consistently, and vote unvaryingly against worker safety, better wages, and decent benefits, and are opposed to any efforts of employees to unionize.

So take it somewhere else, no one is buying it.

Posted by: info53 | February 8, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I have a better idea: Abolish the whole agency and send ALL the union members packing.

Posted by: bucinka8 | February 8, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Ok, this is where my disgust with TSA overrides my loathing of the Republicans. TSA shouldn't exist in the first place. It provides a completely useless function beyond being palliative and lulling gullible, scared citizens into feeling there really is, and really can be, something to be done to make air travel safer. Then, using this fear and gullibility, they engage in thuggish, humiliating practices all in the name of air travel security. Show me one, just one, example of where TSA has successfully impeded a plot. All I ask is one example that the billions being spent on these bullies who get their jollies from groping and humiliating the public.

So, now, why should these individuals have the the same rights as citizens who really do need union protection? The TSA people are the same people who would think nothing of humiliating their union brothers and sisters with the little power they have. I think unions can better serve the public by not pushing this issue. It demeans all the struggles others have endured to obtain collective bargaining in this country and the world.

Posted by: map529 | February 8, 2011 2:43 PM | Report abuse

What's with that slug collins?

Posted by: mtravali | February 8, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

info53...so for you, being anti-union means anti worker then? How well off are all those pensioners going to be when the cities, counties and states can no longer pay the union pyramid scheme pensions? Try to remember that big businesses are big employers. We need to protect them too. Big businesses pay more that 54% of total US private payroll, employ 60 percent of high tech workers in the US, and account for almost half of all nonfarm private gross domestic product. And who owns many of these big evil businesses? The retirement and pension funds of most American citizens...union and non-union alike.

Posted by: TelecomSteve | February 8, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

map529..."citizens who really do need union protection?"....who are these citizens??? Employers can't sneeze at their workers without violating some federal, state, county or city statute. Regulations GALORE protect the worker today! Cross the line and you'll end up in court.
And Homeland Security writes the rules...the TSA workers are just doing as they are told.

Posted by: TelecomSteve | February 8, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"Try to remember that big businesses are big employers. We need to protect them too."

Perhaps you also believe you need to personally protect, say, the Marine Corps? Surely they are as deserving of your tender concern as Exxon and KBR, poor defenseless babies.

You certainly make my point about the twisted priorities of Republicans, ever willing to stand up for the rights of megacorporations at the expense of individuals. I'm sure your efforts on their behalf are deeply appreciated.

Posted by: info53 | February 8, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Very well said, map529.

I would argue further that IF any TSA screener is, in fact, 'demoralized', it is because he/she is one of the few screeners who recognizes what a farce the TSA, & everything it does, is. I would be highly demoralized, too, if I came to the realization that just about every passenger, along w/airline crews, & airport workers, that I come in contact with on a daily basis not only loathes the sight of me but is laughing at me while I look down the pants of someone's grandmother who's only 'crime' is buying a plane ticket. The answer is not unionization, it is to seek alternative employment & stop the TSA in its tracks.

Posted by: txrus | February 8, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

"if the facts didn't show that the GOP is overwhelmingly anti-union "

They're simply reflecting the will of the people. Lavish state pensions are bankrupting states. Lavish union pay and pensions killed GM & Chrysler.

Every dollar that you spend on a union salary or pension is taking dollars away from feeding babies, curing cancer, solving hunger problems in Africa, or paying for education for our children. But hey, you've made it clear that you want semi-literate, uneducated labor to have first dibs at the government trough of money.

I'll bet your credit card has a big balance on it, too.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | February 8, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Susan Collins rarely does anything of which I approve, but in this one, I am truly on her side. Nothing to be gained and everything to lose to further unionize TSA. That would only give them the opportunity to have 8-10 workers standing around (instead of the current 6), shooting the bull, while 2-3 work. Abolish government run TSA entirely and privatize it. Then we might see some efficiency and progress. Unions have outlived their reason to exist. Now their only benefit is to the Union bosses who reap exorbitant salaries and negotiate unreasonable pensions which the rest of us must pay for. Workers in the USA would be better off if unions were extinct. If unions want to continue to exist, they must eliminate the fraud and extortion.

Posted by: dotrsf | February 8, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"They're simply reflecting the will of the people. Lavish state pensions are bankrupting states. Lavish union pay and pensions killed GM & Chrysler."

I enjoy how righties invoke the "will of the people" when they spout their own ill-informed (and minority) prejudices. Don't educate yourself, just claim a non-existent majority and boom! instant credibility.

And that "lavish union pay" hogwash is just a line to stir up the lower classes to vote against their own interests by demonizing unions. Pubs fall for it every time. CEO's laugh at you. I hope you enjoy that.

I don't use consumer credit, it's a scam. Why do you care?

Posted by: info53 | February 8, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

We need to shut TSA down and save taxpayers the money. Since when do former fast food workers make us safer?
I want my reps to close TSA down.

Posted by: Desertdiva1

Agreed 100%
My family and I don't fly anymore. My constitutional rights are worth more than the cost of flying. We just returned from a 4000 mile road trip.
Put these losers out of business.
Security, my A**!

Posted by: wimpie | February 8, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

It wasn't the Labor Movement that destroyed the economy, it was the no-value producing, unregulated greed of Wall Street, banks, insurance companies and casino-speculation by investment houses.

Unions are made up of people who work, pay taxes and create the wealth that those parasites above live off.

Which side are you on?

Posted by: apspa1 | February 8, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

If TSA is allowed to unionize air travel will become totally unbearable. They already grope passengers at will, and have been caught stealing from bags and checkpoint belts and TSA can't get rid of them now.

If they get a union they'll not only be immune from local prosecution, as they already are, but essentially immune from TSA removal.

The government needs to disband TSA and hire private contractors who at least have some accountability to travelers.

Posted by: fisher1949 | February 8, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

It is a never-ending fascination to me how people can talk about unionized Federal workers as if they were unionized private sector workers. The unions operate in such fundamentally different ways they cannot be compared.

First, unionized Federal employees are forbidden by law from striking. Their unions, by law, cannot bargain for wages, hours, employee benefits, or the classifications of jobs. All of that is determined by statute and regulation within the total control of Congress and the Executive.

It is also, by statute, an unfair labor practice for labor unions to call or participate in picketing that interferes with the operation of a federal agency. The federal labor management relations statute also forbids federal agencies from requiring their employees to join a union and must respect their employees' decisions not to join a labor union.

These central differences make any observations about how unions work upon private employers inapposite to how Federal labor unions work on the Government, its operations, or its expenses. The statute was, in fact, carefully created to give Federal employees such employee rights as could be accommodated by the national interest, and no more. Management prerogatives under the statute are quite broad.

Although not in issue here, you will often hear anti-union zealots talk as if the entire Federal Government workforce is unionized, when, in fact, only about 25% are union members and another 5% are free-riders, who could belong to a union but do not join.

Posted by: finserra | February 8, 2011 6:35 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans beginning with Reagan are anti middle class. Most Union Members are middle class workers. The Republicans are virulently anti Union = anti middle class classicists. Republicans are the lap dogs of the rich people. They transfer wealth from the pockets of the middle class and lower class into the pockets of the rich, the elite, the greedy bankers and the corporate bosses.

Posted by: ODDOWL | February 8, 2011 9:39 PM | Report abuse

After many years of working with the AFGE, I see no reason for the TSA to be uninionized. Federal workers already have the MSPB rights and we all know how hard to fire a federal woker...which is exactly what we don't need as it ertains to the TSA...

Posted by: MarkUSAF | February 9, 2011 8:24 AM | Report abuse

I have read many of your comments and I will say this, because of Republicans our jobs are overseas in third world countries. The Republican Party has always favored BIG Corporations. If it wasn't for the unions under the AFL-CIO we would be treated like slaves. The Democratic Party has always favored pro- labor and has always fought to protect the employees of inhumane, hostile working environment, harrassment, working conditions. It is my opinion that TSA is long overdue in having a union and not just a union, but the right union which is American Federation of Government Employees A.F.G.E./AFL-CIO. These officers that most of you have be-littled are regular everyday people that do this just in the name of freedom. These people can be your next door neighbor, or your older children working a part-time or full-time job. Remember before 9/11 we did not have them and look what happened, Osama vin ladens boys parked planes in buildings in New York City, Washington D.C., and close to Camp David. The problem with some of you people are that you suffer from amnesia and seem to forget the harm that evil people do to us. If it wasn't for TSA and the beautiful people that work their our country would not operate as it did before 9/11. These Officers of the Federal Government of the United States of America have the same rights as any other agency in the Federal Sector and I say give it to them.

Posted by: fjavierramon | February 9, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I have read many of your comments and I will say this, because of Republicans our jobs are overseas in third world countries. The Republican Party has always favored BIG Corporations. If it wasn't for the unions under the AFL-CIO we would be treated like slaves. The Democratic Party has always favored pro- labor and has always fought to protect the employees of inhumane, hostile working environment, harrassment, working conditions. It is my opinion that TSA is long overdue in having a union and not just a union, but the right union which is American Federation of Government Employees A.F.G.E./AFL-CIO. These officers that most of you have be-littled are regular everyday people that do this just in the name of freedom. These people can be your next door neighbor, or your older children working a part-time or full-time job. Remember before 9/11 we did not have them and look what happened, Osama vin ladens boys parked planes in buildings in New York City, Washington D.C., and close to Camp David. The problem with some of you people are that you suffer from amnesia and seem to forget the harm that evil people do to us. If it wasn't for TSA and the beautiful people that work their our country would not operate as it did before 9/11. These Officers of the Federal Government of the United States of America have the same rights as any other agency in the Federal Sector and I say give it to them.

Posted by: fjavierramon | February 9, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

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