TSA Employees Move Closer To Union Representation


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TSA Employees Move Closer To Union Representation

Eddy Metcalf

November 15, 2010 – Even as the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) eagerly moves to a union representation election for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees, its president expressed the union’s determination to accelerate its lead role in the effort to secure much-needed collective bargaining rights for these employees. 

“The action by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) in ordering an election in TSA sharply underscores the critical need for an administrative directive immediately granting much-needed and long delayed collective bargaining rights in TSA,” said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley.

“We are ready for an election, and we expect to win it,” she said, “and we will redouble our continuing efforts to win for TSA employees the right to bargain a contract before an election is concluded. That will be the best path to significant improvements in their work lives.”  


She added: “The long-term stability and professionalism of this agency rests on twin pillars—collective bargaining rights for employees and NTEU as their exclusive representative.” NTEU already is aggressively and successfully representing TSA employees in day-to-day workplace issues at airports across the country.  

NTEU continues to press the administration and TSA’s parent agency the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant employees collective bargaining rights, and to work with members of Congress on securing bargaining rights for TSA employees. NTEU strongly supports pending legislation—H.R. 1881, introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and which now has some 150 co-sponsors—that would codify the right of TSA employees to bargain collectively.

The NTEU leader said she is disappointed the FLRA, in supporting NTEU’s petition for a representation election, chose at the same time not to answer the important questions NTEU raised about the rights and obligations of all the parties—employees, their union and their agency—in a setting where the employees do not yet have the right to bargain collectively.

The FLRA, which oversees federal sector labor-management relations—including union representation elections—today issued a decision granting an NTEU petition seeking to overturn an FLRA regional director’s ruling dismissing representation petitions. The regional director cited FLRA precedent regarding the lack of bargaining rights. The FLRA did not, however, address the important questions about what the lack of such rights would mean to employees in the TSA workplace under these circumstances.


President Kelley pointed to a mid-summer filing with the FLRA in which NTEU noted that, while the FLRA does not ordinarily consider requests for guidance on any matter pending before it, “these are not ordinary circumstances.” No federal sector representation election has ever been conducted under circumstances in which employees lack the right to bargain collectively. Without collective bargaining, NTEU said, there are unanswered questions about such key matters as which sections of federal labor law apply; to what extent they apply; and in what ways.               

TSA Administrator John Pistole is currently conducting a review regarding the question of collective bargaining rights at TSA. NTEU is confident such a review will lead to an administrative directive granting these long overdue right to the TSA workforce.  TEU has a multi-part, ongoing program in place on behalf of TSA employees, including working to secure needed improvements in the agency’s current Performance and Accountability Standards System—known as PASS—to make it more fair, credible and transparent; improve the training and certification program; and develop uniformly-applied fair workplace policies.


At the time of its creation in late 2001, Congress placed TSA outside the purview of Title V of the U.S. Code, which covers other federal employees. TSA administrators have had the power to grant a broad array of workplace rights, including collective bargaining, since the agency’s beginning, but none has yet done so.  

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 24,000-member U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bargaining unit.  

As for the election itself, the FLRA will establish the rules and timetable for the vote, count the votes and ultimately certify a winning union. 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 by a more than 2-to-1 margin over the same other union seeking TSA representation rights. NTEU is the largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.

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