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Sat, Feb 05, 2011

AFGE To Senate: Vote 'No' On Anti-Union Amendment

Matter May Be Moot, As Pistole Says He Can Authorize Collective Bargaining ... Up To A Point

The American Federation of Government Employees on Thursday urged Senators to vote against an amendment to the FAA Authorization bill sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), named the Termination of Collective Bargaining for Transportation Security Administration Employees Act, which would prevent more than 40,000 Transportation Security Officers from joining the union and remove others from union rolls.

The online site Security Info Watch reports that Wicker defended his amendment, saying security requires a great deal of flexibility in how assets are deployed. "The FBI, the CIA, and the Secret Service do not have collective bargaining for a good reason," Wicker said.

AFGE National President John Gage issued the following statement:

"The Wicker amendment does not strengthen homeland security, as he would have you believe. There is no evidence that collective bargaining rights have any negative impact on national security, nor that these rights undermine the ability of TSA or any other Department of Homeland Security employees to perform their duties.

"Collective bargaining is in fact a benefit for national security because it empowers workers to voice opinions and make suggestions without fear of retribution. Through fair and consistent working conditions negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement, the workforce becomes more stable and has lower turnover—currently a huge issue at TSA. Furthermore, private passenger and baggage screeners at San Francisco Airport performing the same duties as TSOs have had the right to bargain collectively for years, and have done so with promise.

"TSOs work side-by-side with hundreds of thousands of their DHS colleagues in the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Protective Service, Coast Guard and FEMA who have collective bargaining rights. It is an affront to the professionalism and integrity of TSA employees to insinuate that they would not do their jobs to the best of their ability because of a bargaining agreement. Further, the assertion that a collective bargaining agreement would mean that unionized workers could not be disciplined is untrue—federal law governs the agency's authority to hire, direct, layoff, suspend, remove, and assign work. Additionally, the law bans federal employees from striking.

"This country's TSOs are unequivocally dedicated to protecting each and every American, just like the unionized police and firefighters who valiantly ran into the burning buildings on 9/11. It is an absolute insult to say that with a collective bargaining agreement, TSOs couldn't fulfill the mission of TSA, of DHS and of the United States of America.

"AFGE encourages every senator to vote "no" to this anti-union, anti-worker amendment."

The matter may be moot, however, as TSA Administrator John Pistole (pictured) said Friday that he would allow a union to organize and bargain on behalf of security officers, however some things would be off the table.

The New York Times reports that Pistole said he already has authority granted by Congress to authorize collective bargaining, but negotiations would be limited to such workplace issues as setting vacation priority, shift assignments, and recognition for commendable work. Salaries and benefits would not be subject to collective bargaining.

Security officers are also not allowed to strike, and even if a union vote in March is successful, TSOs will not be required to join or pay dues.

AFGE and the Treasury Employees Union are vying for exclusive rights to represent TSOs. According to the New York Times, about 13,000 already belong to AFGE.



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