March 5, 2007
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The undersigned unions urge you to support the McCaskill amendment to S. 4, the 9-11 Commission Recommendations bill, which would provide Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers with collective bargaining and other civil service protections.
On February 15th, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted in favor of an amendment by Senator Joseph Lieberman granting collective bargaining and other labor rights to 45,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs). During floor consideration yesterday, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) offered a motion to strike the Lieberman amendment. Subsequently, Senator McCaskill offered a second degree amendment to the motion to strike. While the McCaskill amendment provides more limited civil service and collective bargaining rights than the Lieberman amendment, it is nonetheless a good first step for this workforce, and we urge you to oppose Senator DeMint’s motion to strike, and support the McCaskill amendment.
The House has already included a collective bargaining rights provision in its version of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act.
Following September 11, 2001, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) creating the TSA and federalizing the duties of screening passengers and baggage at airports into the position of TSO. Although this was a prime opportunity to establish a highly-trained, well-paid and fully-empowered professional public workforce, TSA management instead created its own personnel system without the widely accepted protections afforded to most federal workers. TSOs currently are allowed to join unions, but in 2003, TSA Under Secretary Loy issued a directive that prohibits TSOs from engaging in collective bargaining.
Without enforcement of labor protection laws that ensure fair treatment, safe workplaces, and protection for whistleblowers against retaliation from supervisors, national security is jeopardized. Some examples of this poor treatment follow:
- TSA has refused to follow the Rehabilitation Act and therefore does not have to make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, including diabetes and epilepsy.
- TSA has refused to apply veteran’s preference in promotion and reduction-in-force decisions. Although other federal agencies apply veteran’s preference to both those who retired from the military and those who leave active duty, TSA provides whatever limited veteran’s preference it gives to only retired military personnel.
- TSA has paid TSOs thousands of dollars less than promised at the time of hire, because screeners do not have an employment “contract” with the government, and therefore, no contract protections.
- TSA provides no meaningful enforcement of whistleblower protections.
The lack of the most basic worker rights and persistent inadequate staffing have taken their toll on the TSO workforce. TSOs are subject to extensive unscheduled mandatory overtime, penalties for using accrued leave and constant scheduling changes because of the failure of the TSA to hire adequate numbers of TSOs. As a result TSA has among the highest injury, illness, and lost time rates in the federal government. In fiscal year 2006, TSA employees’ injury and illness rates were close to 30%, far higher than the 5% average injury and illness rate for all federal employees. The overall TSA attrition rate is more than 10 times higher than the 2.2% attrition rate for federal civilian employees and upwards of 40% at some major airports. This continuing mistreatment of the TSO workforce hampers the ability of TSOs to do their jobs and public safety is jeopardized.
Finally, despite the allegations of some Senators, it is illegal for any federal worker to strike, regardless of whether they belong to a union or are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. The act of striking by federal workers is both an unfair labor practice under 5 U.S.C. §7116 (b)(7)(A) and 5 U.S.C. §7311(3), and a criminal violation under 18 U.S.C. §1918. Striking is also specifically prohibited by Public Law 107-71 § 111 (i) and is codified at 49 USC §44935 (i).
The public will never receive the highly-trained, career screener workforce it demanded after the tragic events of September 11th if TSOs are not granted these fundamental labor rights. The undersigned unions urge you to oppose the DeMint motion to strike and support the McCaskill second degree amendment to S. 4 when it is considered next Tuesday.
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
TRANSPORTATION TRADES DEPARTMENT, AFL-CIO
PROFESSIONAL AIRWAYS SYSTEMS SPECIALISTS
AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION
TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION
DEPARTMENT FOR PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO
UNITED AUTO WORKERS
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY,
AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES
INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF PROFESSIONAL AND TECHNICAL ENGINEERS
COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS
AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS
NATIONAL POSTAL MAIL HANDLERS UNION