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Posted at 12:16 PM ET, 02/10/2011

TSA boss says he'd fire security officers who strike

By Ed O'Keefe

Transportation Security Administration boss John Pistole said Thursday that he would fire any workers who strike or purposely slow their work over disagreements with the agency's labor policies, noting that neither option is legally allowed anyway.

"I won't allow anything that would adversely affect security," Pistole said Thursday at a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on TSA matters. Republicans grilled him on the specifics of his decision last week to permit limited collective bargaining rights for TSA workers on issues not related to national security.

Under questioning, he said workers would be risking their jobs if they try to strike or fail to show up for work, because "there's no right to do that."

If agency employees decide to join a union, negotiations would be handled only at the national level, he said. More specific airport concerns would be handled at the local level and workers with individual concerns should continue to speak with supervisors, but union representatives might one day take up those concerns, Pistole said.

From March 9 through April 19, eligible TSA workers will be able to choose between joining two unions, the National Treasury Employees Union and the American Federation of Government Employees, or they can select "No union." Workers will be able to vote online or by calling a toll-free number. Ballots will be counted starting on April 20.

If a union wins the election, it will serve as the exclusive representative for the agency's transportation security officers, behavior detection officers, training instructors and equipment maintenance workers.

Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the subcommittee on transportation security, said Republicans continue to have legitimate concerns with TSA unionization, because future administrators might permit broader negotiations on issues more closely related to national security.

"We may have an administrator who decides to put more things in the pot, so to speak," Rogers told reporters. He said he hasn't decided whether to support Senate efforts to block collective bargaining rights.

Pistole also defended his decision to suspend a program permitting airports to opt out of TSA in favor of private security screeners.

"TSA should be a federal counterterrorism agency and we're best able to train, to deploy to execute on our mission as a federal workforce," he said, adding later he is still open to "new ideas and new opportunities" involving private screeners.

Rogers said Republicans would introduce legislation reopening the program only if they felt Pistole wasn't open to permitting reasonable private security options.

(The TSA administrator also said the agency is mulling a "trusted traveler" program. For more on that, visit our Dr. Gridlock blog.)

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 10, 2011; 12:16 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Congress, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

The House, during the budget process will write in a clause forbidding these guys from unionizing. Last thing the gov needs is more layers of ineptness & sloth...

Posted by: illogicbuster | February 10, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

@illogicalbluster:

It is by no means clear that the First Amendment to the US Constitution enables Congress to forbid anyone from unionizing. "Freedom to peaceably assemble," remember?

It amazes me that you have no respect for any kind of regulation that might have a bearing on you, yet you express such eagerness to trample the rights of other Americans.

If you think TSA employees deserve to be treated as second-class citizens, what kind of citizen does that make you?

Posted by: lonquest | February 10, 2011 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Racist.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 10, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

@longquest

who said illogicalbluste is against any regulation? I think its safe to say that he is against labor unions, but he says nothing about regulation. Why do wing-nuts insist that anyone who is against one thing they support must also be against everything they support.

Geez, and we wonder why we are a polarized nation.

Posted by: akmzrazor | February 10, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Does PATCO jog any memories?

Posted by: pielusztcontractor | February 10, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

All I can say is this: does anyone wonder why government and business leaders oppose anything that would give the average person any control over their job or working conditions? And why are so many people, especially conservatives, always side with the leaders? Do you really think businesses and government leaders want whats best for us...or them?

Go workers!

Posted by: Trakker | February 10, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Stand firm Pistole. Remember Reagan and the air traffic controllers. They didn't think he could do it either. That set a painful precedent that illustrates you do put your own job at risk if you strike. I'd prefer they just shut the whole nasty TSA down.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 10, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I hope all TSA employees strike and then maybe we can get back to individual freedoms the way flying used to be without being molested by a bunch of goons before boarding an airplane.

Posted by: rteske | February 10, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

LOL rteske you make an excellent point. TSA workers have zilch public support. Maybe they should all strike and get fired. It would be nice to start flying again instead of driving everywhere.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 10, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't Mr. Pistole start an example by resigning? Mr. Pistole has bargained away the privacy and long term health of law abiding American taxpayers.

Posted by: FrequentTravler | February 10, 2011 6:14 PM | Report abuse

The TSA couldn't find itself without help, so they are not likely to find anything related to national security. The fiasco that we are subjected to at airports is a joke. When going through the metal detector with your eyeglasses on sets off the detector, someone is going a little paranoid. The people that have been caught by TSA were about as obvious as a road sign painted orange and left a trail of clues as bright as lights on street lamps. Give us a break, any union these people join will only try to get them more coffee breaks or a longer lunch hour, which many of them could actually do without.

Posted by: ronjeske | February 10, 2011 6:49 PM | Report abuse

@akmzrazor:
Illogicalbluster isn't new to me. His disdain for the federal government is easy to substantiate, in his own words:

illogicbuster wrote:
Sebelius babbled: "Critics of the health law should realize it puts states in the driver's seat."
----------------------
So, the Fed Gov dicataing policy to the states that will cost them big time equals putting states "in the drivers seat."
When did Sebelius get a brainectomy? Or, has she always had an IQ of <50?
2/10/2011 11:25:10 AM

illogicbuster wrote:
Sebelius babbled: "Critics of the health law should realize it puts states in the driver's seat."
----------------------
So, the Fed Gov dicataing policy to the states that will cost them big time equals putting states "in the drivers seat."
When did Sebelius get a brainectomy? Or, has she always had an IQ of <50?

States WERE in the drivers seat before ObumblerCare was passed. Mass. created a plan they wanted, any state could do the same.
2/10/2011 1:47:52 PM

So, as he demonstrates, Illogicalbluster is disdainful of regulation, generally disrespectful, shrill, but not really logical, and unoriginal. He repeats himself frequently.

Posted by: lonquest | February 10, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Who the heck really cares? Mr. Pistole is really, really the oaf that he pretends to be and his employees all show it. Maybe they all should go away. Would we be any less secure without these clods to grope at us? I doubt it.

Posted by: sameolddoc | February 10, 2011 9:06 PM | Report abuse

The airlines want the security. They don't want to let people on their airplanes that might have the ability to bring that plane down. That ends up costing the airlines a bunch of money and kills people. In case you have all forgotten- there are still people who try to do things to bring down airplanes just like those that crashed airplanes back on 9-11. As long as that reality exists people are going to have to go through security. That is the reality of modern day flying. As far as having private security- it would be no less invasive and would probably be even worse because the number one thing any private contractor would do is reduce pay and benefits so they would get even less qualified applicants. The risk of pictures from scanners being kept and distributed would be greater because they wouldn't be under the same kind of constraints as a government employee and the laws are lacking in the private sector in areas like that. Complain all you want about the TSA but they aren't going anywhere anytime soon and the other options would be worse. If you don't like dealing with it, try not to fly.

Posted by: alaskan2 | February 10, 2011 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Yea blame it on unions, they are making so much money. While the privately owned Federal Reserve steals billions from us, we pay them interest on the money the us treasury prints. How dumb can you be. Oh dont forget get the banksters, run by billionaires who we bailed out. I do not need any federal goon squad to protect me. As far as 9/11, anyone who believes 19 supposed terrorists flew around for 11/2 hrs, where was the Air Force then. Oh yeah cheney had them step down. While bush father was meeting with bin laden brother on washington on 9/11. Its common knowledge the bush family has been in business with the bin laden family for decades. Cheney's company has made billions off 2 illegal wars. In God We Trust!

Posted by: srthd98 | February 11, 2011 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I am stunned that TSA would be praised at these hearings given the past three month performance. The list of TSA accomplishments in that time includes:
1. One dead teen who managed to sneak onto the airfield and stowaway in an airliner wheel well.
2. Three loaded handguns that got through security.
3. Paid $10K in a lawsuit where a woman had her breasts exposed.
4. Over 2,000 complaints at ACLU of groping, reaching into underwear and TSO other abuse.
5. An TSA screener who kidnapped and raped a woman in Atlanta.
6. Another screener who died in a shootout with police in New Mexico.
7. Three arrests for theft of passenger property at airports.
8. Hundreds of theft complaints at LaGuardia alone in 2010.
9. Refusal to release scanner safety data to Congress as required by law.
10. Dozens of lawsuits filed by passengers citing abuse by TSA screeners.
11. Repeatedly lying to Congress or concealing evidence until video reveals otherwise.
12. The strip search of a boy in Salt Lake City, caught on video.
13. Imprisoning a young mother for an hour in Phoenix.

What do they have to do before Congress or the White House does something, commit murders?! The tenor of this inquiry is troubling at best and malfeasance at worst.

Posted by: fisher1949 | February 12, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

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