TSA boss says he'd fire security officers who strike
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.)
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| February 10, 2011; 12:16 PM ET
Categories: Agencies and Departments, Congress, Workplace Issues
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