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TSA Administrator Pistole’s Decision on Collective Bargaining

Friday, February 4, 2011

Contact:
TSA Public Affairs
(571) 227-2829

Overview

Under the legislation that created TSA, Congress expressly granted the TSA Administrator sole authority to establish the terms and conditions of employment for security officers at airports. That authority has been used to establish hiring, pay, performance management and discipline processes for Transportation Security Officers (TSOs).

During TSA’s formative years, collective bargaining was prohibited, although membership in a union was not. More than 13,000 TSOs are currently paying dues to one or more labor unions, but the unions provide personal rather than collective representation and cannot bargain on behalf of the officers.

Administrator Pistole pledged during his confirmation hearings that he would complete a thorough assessment of the impact collective bargaining might have on the safety and security of the traveling public. The recently completed assessment included a review of employee data, a broad range of conversations, input from employees and TSA management and from the two union presidents seeking to represent TSOs, as well as interviews with the present and former leaders of a variety of security and law enforcement agencies and organizations. These included federal, state, and local government agencies such as the NYPD and Customs and Border Protection and employers of unionized guards at a number of national security facilities such as secure nuclear weapon and Department of Defense facilities, as well as experts on labor relations in high performance organizations. Interviews were also conducted with management at two airports that are part of TSA’s Screening Partnership Program that have unionized contracted screeners.

Last November, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) issued a decision that called for an election among TSOs to determine whether a majority of officers wished to have exclusive union representation for purposes other than collective bargaining. Administrator Pistole’s Determination allows this election to move forward and lays out specific terms for limited, clearly-defined collective bargaining within a framework consistent with TSA's security mission, should TSOs elect a union.

This framework is unique to TSA in that it allows for bargaining at the national-level only – while prohibiting local-level bargaining at individual airports – only on the non-security employment issues identified in the Determination, such as shift bids, transfers and awards. Administrator Pistole’s Determination prohibits bargaining on any topics that might affect security, such as:

  • Security policies, procedures or the deployment of security personnel or equipment
  • Pay, pensions and any form of compensation
  • Proficiency testing
  • Job qualifications
  • Discipline standards

If a union is chosen, each security officer will retain the right to choose whether or not to join the union. The Determination strictly prohibits officers from striking or engaging in work slowdowns of any kind.

Questions and Answers

What does this mean for TSA’s Transportation Security Officers?
TSOs will have the right to vote for or against union representation in a fair and transparent process, bringing closure to the question of union representation and bargaining. An election conducted by the FLRA is consistent with TSA’s security mission if conducted under the framework set forth in Administrator Pistole’s Determination. This framework covers only TSOs who perform screening.

If a majority of TSOs vote for union representation, union membership and/or payment of union dues or fees will be voluntary. If a union is chosen, bargaining will occur only at the national level. Local level bargaining and local level agreements are prohibited.

Using the authority granted to him under the legislation that created TSA, Administrator Pistole laid out a clearly-defined, unique framework for collective bargaining that preserves TSA’s capability and flexibility to respond to evolving threats, and continue improving employee engagement, performance and professional development. Additionally, it would reinforce consistency and accountability across security operations at more than 450 airports.

Should officers choose a union, Administrator Pistole would allow bargaining on limited, non-security issues relating to employment including shift bids, transfers and awards. Bargaining on any issues related to security would be strictly prohibited. For example, bargaining would not be allowed on security policies, procedures or the deployment of security personnel or equipment, pay, pensions and any form of compensation, proficiency testing, job qualifications or discipline standards. Officers would also be strictly prohibited from striking or engaging in work slowdowns of any kind.

TSA will continue to engage all of its employees directly on terms and conditions of employment and will retain the right to discipline and terminate employees.

What would be included in this labor relations framework?
The safety of the traveling public is our top priority and we will not negotiate on security. If officers vote to be represented by a union, Administrator Pistole laid out a clearly-defined, unique framework for collective bargaining that preserves TSA’s capability and flexibility to respond to evolving threats, and continue improving employee engagement, performance and professional development. Additionally, it would ensure that a union’s role would help to reinforce consistency and accountability across security operations at more than 450 airports.

Should officers choose a union, Administrator Pistole would allow bargaining on only the limited, non-security issues relating to employment identified in the Determination, including shift bids, transfers and awards. Any issues not specifically identified in the Determination will not be subject to bargaining.

What would be excluded under this framework?
Bargaining on any issues related to security would be strictly prohibited. For example, bargaining would not be allowed on security policies, procedures or the deployment of security personnel or equipment, pay, pensions and any form of compensation, proficiency testing, job qualifications or discipline standards.

Officers would also be strictly prohibited from striking or engaging in work slowdowns of any kind.

TSA will continue to engage all of its employees directly on terms and conditions of employment and will retain the right to discipline and terminate employees.

What is the timeframe?
The FLRA-run election – which will be held electronically and by secret ballot – will likely take place in Spring 2011.

How much will unionization cost TSA?
There will be no cost to TSA unless and until a union is certified by the FLRA as the winner of the election. If exclusive union representation is voted for by a majority of TSOs, our preliminary estimates are that implementation would cost between $5-8 million annually, which amounts to approximately one-quarter of one percent of TSA’s budget for security officer salaries.

Because bargaining would occur at the national level only, the need for local labor relations infrastructure – a significant driver of cost – is eliminated.

What are the unions participating in the election?
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) are the two unions who currently have sufficient interest among the TSA workforce to participate in the election. The ballot will have three options: AFGE, NTEU, No Union. If no option receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be conducted between the two choices receiving the most and second most number of votes.

How will this affect the traveling public?
TSA’s priority is the safety of the traveling public and we will not negotiate on security or risk adversely impacting the resources and agility necessary to protect national security. TSOs will not have the right to strike or engage in work slowdowns of any kind and bargaining would be strictly limited to clearly-defined employment issues. This will not impact the traveling public.

Additional Information

If you are an employee eligible to vote in the election to be conducted by the Federal Labor Relations Authority, you may vote for: (1) the American Federation of Government Employees; (2) the National Treasury Employees Union; or (3) no union. TSA is neutral both as to the unionization of its employees and as between the unions seeking to represent its employees. As provided in Section IV(E)(2) of the Administrator's February 4, 2011 Determination, TSA lists below links to the websites of each union.