Washington, D.C.—Today’s issuance of a directive granting collective bargaining rights for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees is a huge victory for the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) and the 40,000 TSA Officers that serve our nation’s travelers. Now, the union said it is eager to move promptly on to the next two steps—a union representation election, then bargaining a contract that will significantly improve the lives of the TSA workforce.
“This decision and the upcoming representation election at TSA will give these officers a voice in their workplace and a chance at a better future,” said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley. “The sooner NTEU is certified as the exclusive representative of the TSA workforce, the sooner we can begin improving the lives of employees at this key agency.” The election period has been tentatively set for March 9 through April 19.
The path toward a union election and ultimately contract bargaining was cleared today by the action of TSA Administrator John Pistole in granting TSA employees workplace rights, including the all-important right to bargain collectively.
“The administrator has studied this issue carefully and made the right decision,” Kelley said. “While long-delayed, I am very pleased to see that TSA leadership has recognized the value to the agency and the traveling public of a union-represented workforce.” In an NTEU survey, 85 percent of TSA employees said collective bargaining rights would make TSA a more effective agency.
She added: “I am fully confident this decision will bring much-needed stability and professionalism to this critical transportation protection agency, and because of that, the public will be well-served.” TSA ranks among the lowest federal agencies in employee morale.
Achieving collective bargaining is the cornerstone of the five-point plan NTEU has advanced for TSA employees. Once the election winner is certified, Kelley said NTEU will focus on the other elements in its plan: developing uniformly-applied fair workplace policies; changes to TSA’s current pay system—the Performance and Accountability Standards System (PASS); improvements in its training and certification program; and negotiating a fair grievance and arbitration procedure with neutral third party arbitrators, as well as giving TSA Officers the same rights as other federal employees.
At the time of its creation in late 2001, Congress placed TSA outside the purview of Title 5 of the U.S. Code which covers other federal employees. TSA administrators have had the power to grant or deny a broad array of workplace rights, including collective bargaining, since the agency’s beginning, but none had granted collective bargaining rights until Pistole acted today.
NTEU’s aggressive efforts which culminated in today’s declaration included presentation of employee petitions to President Obama; working with senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leaders, including Secretary Janet Napolitano; significant efforts with key members of Congress on homeland security issues, including facilitating meetings of TSA employees with representatives and senators so they could present the view from the front lines; and extensive media work.
NTEU has an ongoing organizing campaign among TSA employees across the country and already represents many thousands of them at airports, both large and small. TSA is a unit of DHS, where NTEU already is the exclusive representative for the 26,000-member U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bargaining unit.
As for the election itself, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) will oversee the election, which is tentatively scheduled for March 9-April 19, will count the votes and ultimately certify a winning union. TSA Officers will vote online and through a toll-free number. To date, the 2006 FLRA-run election covering the CBP bargaining unit has been the largest representation election in federal sector history. NTEU won that election over the other union that is seeking TSA representation rights by a more than two-to-one margin.
Even with today’s grant of collective bargaining rights, NTEU continues to press for approval of pending legislation that would codify the right of TSA employees to bargain collectively.
“These employees perform a vital service for the American people, but they lack a voice in their working conditions,” said President Kelley. “Giving employees a meaningful say in workplace issues will vastly improve morale and retention at this critical agency.”
NTEU is the largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.