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Posted at 2:45 PM ET, 02/ 4/2011

TSA agrees to limited collective bargaining for airport screeners

By Joe Davidson
Anne Bartlett

The Obama administration has decided to allow limited collective bargaining rights for transportation security officers.

The decision by the Transportation Security Administration marks an important, if not complete, victory for the two largest federal employee unions that have long pushed for the ability to negotiate on behalf of the workers. Those unions, the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, are competing in an election campaign to win the support of about 50,000 officers, also known as airport baggage screeners.

The election is being closely watched by the wider organized labor movement because the officers are the largest group of workers now engaged in an union organizing effort in the country.

"The safety of the traveling public is our top priority and we will not negotiate on security," said John Pistole, the administrator of the TSA, who made the decision after a review that spanned several months. "But morale and employee engagement cannot be separated from achieving superior security. If security officers vote to move forward with collective bargaining, this framework will ensure that TSA retains the capability and flexibility necessary to respond to evolving threats, and continue improving employee engagement, performance and professional development."

Low morale has been a serious problem for the agency, which has ranked poorly on employee surveys.

Pistole's decision excludes bargaining on any issue that TSA considers security related. That includes security procedures, and the deployment of security personnel or equipment. Also excluded from bargaining are other issues including compensation, testing, job qualifications and discipline standards.

"Now many issues will be up for negotiations, including seniority, shift biddings, transfers and awards," said AFGE President John Gage. "I can guarantee that after AFGE negotiates a contract, TSA will not rank anywhere near the bottom of the Best Places to Work survey, as it currently does at 220 out of 224 federal agencies."

Security officers had already been granted the right to vote for a union by the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Now they will vote with the certainty that the union they choose will have the right to collectively negotiate for them. More that 13,000 TSOs are members of the unions, which until now could only provide personal representation.

"This decision and the upcoming representation election at TSA will give these officers a voice in their workplace and a chance at a better future," said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley. "The sooner NTEU is certified as the exclusive representative of the TSA workforce, the sooner we can begin improving the lives of employees at this key agency."

The election period has been tentatively set for March 9 through April 19.

federaldiary@washpost.com

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Joe Davidson  | February 4, 2011; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

Fire em and hire from the private industry. We have enough union trash fighting for their right to be mediocre, fat and lazy.

Posted by: Cryos | February 4, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

An unmitigated disaster waiting to happen. Still, if the normal people recently elected to Congress do their part, the TSA won't even exist.

Liberals are the problem. 2012. Solve the problem.

Posted by: 1911a1 | February 4, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Oh my God. If travelers think going thru security is bad now, just wait until TSA unionizes. A government union's sole justification for existence is to defend the worst performing bargaining unit members.

Posted by: sherryds | February 4, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Great. What we were all waiting for. More union employees that do a crappy job and get BIG benefits and pensions. At least there are things that are non-negotiable.
TSA! What a crock.

Posted by: hebe1 | February 4, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Few US Americans want to support a Unionized security force working for an illegal unelected Shadow Government entity on this soil.

Posted by: dottydo | February 4, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Let the US Military run security at the airports and do away with this mess.
They can profile and smell danger a mile away.

Posted by: dottydo | February 4, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

How apt! While all the brain-dead conservatives are celebrating the 100th birthday of the dead Ronnie Raygun, a new union of government workers rises. One of Reagan's first acts (after killing the "Fairness Doctrine") was to bust the air traffic controller's union. Thus began the decline of the American worker into corporate servitude.

As Woody Guthrie wrote, "You can't scare me, I'm sticking to The Union!"

Posted by: thebobbob | February 4, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Now we know why Pistole doesn't want airports to use private screeners.

Posted by: gmclain | February 4, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

The TSA is a stark reminder of how government bureaucrats become disconnected and unconcerned with the very citizens they are supposedly trying to protect. To date, no TSA official has answered any questions about the potential long term health effects of their AIT machines. The silence from our politicians is deafening which ought to give any American taxpayer pause...

Everytime I pass through an airport checkpoint I am reminded that our country is going in the wrong direction - our government is more concerned with annoying and radiating law abiding citizens than they are focusing on the real security threats. After these clowns get their union cards, it will be even tougher to hold them to any sort of accountability. This is sad and pathetic.

I agree with the fellow blogger who stated that the next "Opt Out" day is November 2012.

Posted by: FrequentTravler | February 4, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I support the right of all workers to organize for purposes of collective bargaining, including government employees. I'm pretty well aware of how unions got started in the first place, and see the need for these types of organizations in today's business environment.

For those of you who think I'm a "fat, lazy union employee", save your breath. I belong to no union or collective bargaining organization - since I conduct engineering research, my job is entirely dependent on my ability to 1) write winning research proposals and 2) perform the work my sponsors expect to see. For the sponsors to whom I propose, the proposal acceptance rate is generally about 10%.

Posted by: apn3206 | February 4, 2011 6:01 PM | Report abuse

It is always fun to read stupid comments from ignorant people. Idiots, all the private sector security employees at airports are unionized, as they are at the nuclear weapons sites, the pentagon, the US Capitol, at all the Canadian airports, the Australian airports, and at US military bases (most of whom are guarded by private contractors). The nonunion TSA is an anomaly. Check the facts before you open your mouth and then your opinion might be worth listening to.

Posted by: tjs20036 | February 4, 2011 11:53 PM | Report abuse

It is always fun to read stupid comments from ignorant people. Idiots, all the private sector security employees at airports are unionized, as they are at the nuclear weapons sites, the pentagon, the US Capitol, at all the Canadian airports, the Australian airports, and at US military bases (most of whom are guarded by private contractors). The nonunion TSA is an anomaly. Check the facts before you open your mouth and then your opinion might be worth listening to.

Posted by: tjs20036 | February 4, 2011 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Is anyone surprised? The Kenyan President needs more union campaign donations for the 2012 election.

Posted by: priveye | February 5, 2011 5:41 AM | Report abuse

it's rather obvious that most of you have no clue as to what a union is or does. you obviously want to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week right up until the day you die with no health benefits or retirement. i on the other hand chose a field, construction, where i could join a union, work a reasonable work day and week with health benefits and retired with a reasonable pension after working 38 years. admittedly there are a few who abuse the system but by and large most union members are hardworking and intelligent be they on the outside or gov't. employees.

Posted by: RalphE2 | February 7, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

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