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TSA Labor Pact Focuses on Tie Tacks & Tattoos

November 9, 2012

Washington, DC – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners’ union ratified a collective bargaining agreement with the agency today. A Congressional report and analysis of the agreement released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman says TSA’s focus on security is eroded by the Administration’s decision to negotiate the largest federal labor agreement since World War II.

U.S. Rep. and Transportation Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) released the analysis by the Committee’s investigative staff today. To read the full report, click here.

“Unfortunately, TSA has spent months negotiating agreements which focus on workplace grievances but ignore security performance improvements,” Mica said. “Once again TSA has failed to address mounting screening failures, even after significant security meltdowns in Newark, Honolulu, Charlotte, Orlando, Fort Myers, and elsewhere.

“While we must respect employee rights to be represented by organized labor, TSA has failed to represent the flying public and has missed the mark on improving procedures and protocols while focusing on tie tacks and tattoos,” Mica said. “Even though the army of TSA screeners has reached a labor agreement, it is my prediction they will never be happy while they must deal with this gigantic and often mindless bureaucracy. Many of these hard-working TSA workers are being left in the lurch.”

The Congressional analysis of the TSA labor agreement for 45,000 federal security screeners concludes that it provides few real benefits to TSA employees and only further diverts focus from TSA’s core functions of analyzing intelligence and ensuring the security of air travelers. “This agency should be devoting every available resource to improving upon its poor track record of security blunders and missteps, not diverting its attention to deals that stipulate which direction screeners can wear the brim of their hats,” Mica said.

The decision about whether to allow union representation and collective bargaining for TSA employees was left to the discretion of the TSA Administrator when the agency was created in 2001. In January 2003, the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security Admiral James M. Loy issued an order precluding collective bargaining for TSA screeners. “Mandatory collective bargaining is not compatible with the flexibility required to wage the war against terrorism,” Loy stated at the time.

This policy remained in effect until August 2012, when TSA Administrator Pistole announced a collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). According to the Congressional Research Service, this is the largest federal bargaining unit agreement since WWII.

While the TSA Administrator under the Obama Administration has reversed course from previous TSA leaders and agreed to allow for collective bargaining rights at TSA, the changes are unlikely to improve the nature of the bureaucracy, and some of the changes negotiated will lead to increased costs at an agency that currently spends approximately $8 billion per year on security programs, equipment and personnel.

Under the labor agreement, TSA employees will see their uniform allowances nearly double to $446 per year. By comparison, a combat Marine Lieutenant receives a one-time uniform allowance of $400. The cost of the increase in TSA uniform allowance is an estimated $9.63 million annually.

Additionally, the collective bargaining agreement confirms that the TSA will be allowing, and paying, employees to serve official time on a full-time basis for the union. The cost of these types of work arrangements is not known.

“This agency continues to fail its employees and the American public by trying to manage a bloated workforce of more than 65,000, including overpaid headquarters and management staff, rather than focusing on providing the best transportation security standards, strong oversight, and more efficient, cost-effective security,” Mica said.

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