TSA, unions meet, hope for swift action

Friday - 8/27/2010, 9:43am EDT

John Gage, national president, AFGE

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Colleen Kelley, President, National Treasury Employees Union

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By Vyomika Jairam
Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Should workers at the Transportation Security Administration receive collective bargaining rights? That's what some of the leading workers unions would like to have happen, and they've been making their case for it in meetings with new TSA Administrator John Pistole.

Pistole, who was confirmed in June, was the third nominee for the job, and during his confirmation process was asked about his stance on the collective bargaining issue.

"I would not frame it as non-committal," Colleen Kelley, President of the National Treasury Employees Union said of Pistole's response during the confirmation process. "He made very clear that he needs information, he wants time to do an assessment for himself. To gather the facts for himself."

And so far, union leader agree that's what he's been doing. Kelly and American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage have met with Pistole in recent weeks and both say he's been neutral and fair during meetings.

"He is not looking for opinions of others, he's looking facts about operations and about how collective bargaining can help, and if there are any concerns he needs to make sure he's aware of, " Kelley said.

In Kelley's meeting with Pistole, she presented findings of a recent NTEU survey which found a majority of TSA workers favored granting collective bargaining rights.

"85% percent of the employees surveyed said that they believed it would made a difference for the agency, as well as for the employees," Kelley said.

In his meeting, Gage attempted to dispell the demagoguery that somehow being a union member would be a threat to national security. Gage also raised the point that there are several airports around the country that are privately staffed, as in San Francisco, where the employees have collective bargaining rights. Gage said AFGE found that morale was higher, turnover was lower, people felt that their issues could get resolved.

"When you see that happening at San Francisco, and then you say that the vast majority of TSOs that are federalized, that they can't have any voice at work, it just doesn't pass the laugh test," Gage said. "There's no reason in the world why these people shouldn't have collective bargaining."

Kelley would like to see the decision made as soon as possible, to then open it up to the Federal Labor Relations Authority to conduct an election with the 40,000 plus employees to pick a union to represent them.

Gage is hoping the election will take place by the end of the year.

"I think the employees really want to get this over with, there's a sense of frustration out there that something should be an easy call has taken so long," Gage said.