Senator opposes collective-bargaining rights for TSA workers
Granting collective-bargaining rights to Transportation Security Administration workers — including hundreds in Pittsburgh — could compromise airline safety, according to Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who has held up the appointment of a TSA chief.
"The attempted terror attack in Detroit is a perfect example of why the Obama administration should not unionize the TSA and allow our airline-security decisions to be dictated by union bosses," DeMint said in a statement.
DeMint has blocked President Obama's nomination of Erroll G. Southers, a former FBI agent who is assistant chief of the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, to head the agency. Gale D. Rossides is serving as acting administrator.
DeMint said he wants clarification on Southers' stand on collective-bargaining.
Southers, who declined an interview request, has been non-committal in public comments on the issue.
"Today, the TSA has flexibility to make real-time decisions that allowed it to quickly improve security measures in response to this attempted attack," DeMint said of a Nigerian passenger's intention to blow up the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. "Security decisions that take minutes to implement today could now be held up in weeks and months of arbitration."
The senator said the agency might be forced to "share sensitive intelligence information to explain changes in new work requirements" with union negotiators and other third parties. He added that the TSA no longer could "reward exceptional screeners and release underperforming workers."
DeMint's critics, however, argue that the delay in appointing a permanent TSA administrator does more to hurt the agency's effectiveness.
"It's got to affect it, and I don't see how it helps," said Art Kosatka, CEO of the aviation-security consulting firm TranSecure Inc., based in Leesburg, Va.
Obama made a campaign promise to obtain collective-bargaining rights for TSA workers. Under federal law, the TSA administrator has authority to grant workers bargaining rights. Past administrators — all appointed by President George W. Bush — opted not to do so, however.
An aide for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the majority leader would move to quickly bring the matter to a vote when the Senate reconvenes in three weeks.
About 12,000 of the TSA's 40,000 security officers belong to the American Federation of Government Employees — a union that represents them in such issues as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints and internal disciplinary matters, said spokeswoman Emily Ryan.
More than 100 of Pittsburgh International Airport's 270 security officers belong to the union, said Kimberly Kraynak, who heads AFGE Local 332.
"The implication that collective-bargaining would be a threat to national security is insulting," Kraynak said. "We know what the mission is. Other (Homeland Security) agencies have collective-bargaining, and that never once stopped anyone from doing their job."
Ryan, the union spokeswoman, noted that federal law prohibits unionized federal workers from striking.
"At TSA, unfortunately, there is no uniformity. Policies differ from airport to airport, and sometimes from checkpoint to checkpoint," she said. "They need an administrator to bring uniformity and address the highest attrition rates and lowest morale in the federal government."
A recent study shows turnover in the TSA exceeds 19 percent — nearly 6 times the rate for the entire government, Ryan said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Federal regulators pen rules for Cuba trade, tourism
- Computer hackers’ attack on Sony ‘merits an appropriate response,’ White House says
- Feds design college ratings system
- Car plows into crowd in California, killing 3
- Wis. girls who stabbed classmate deemed competent for trial
- Meningitis suspects to be freed from jail while awaiting trial in 64 deaths
- Navy developing robotic fish drone
- Social Security yanked from deported Nazis
- Los Angeles apartment complex fire deliberately set, ATF investigators find
- Bondage ‘Master Bob’ Bashara convicted in wife’s slaying in Detroit area
- U.S. to open embassy in Cuba soon