Congress Not Opposed to a Union, Just Collective Bargaining

By Richard Thayer

While most Americans are pleading with Congress to do something about the unemployment situation, our representatives on Capitol Hill obviously have more pressing concerns on their minds–like disallowing collective bargaining rights for federal employees.

A couple of weeks ago John Pistole, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, ruled that security officers within his agency could have “limited” bargaining rights. All of this was detailed in a 21 page Decision Memorandum giving the basis upon which such negotiations could and could not include such as: “TSA will not bargain about security policies and procedures or issues affecting security.”

But that’s not good enough for some in Congress. Last week Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) co-sponsored a piece of legislation entitled “Termination of Collective Bargaining for Transportation Security Administration Employees Act of 2011.” No ambiguity there.

It would seem that Senator Collins, and others in her party, are concerned that collective bargaining for TSA officers, the folks who screen people and luggage at airports, could somehow compromise safety and security in the event of a national emergency.

In addition to that legislation, Representatives Darrell Issa (R-Calif) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said in a letter that even though the TSA’s administrator had said his agency won’t, under any circumstances, negotiate on safety, “it appears many of the employment conditions subject to collective bargaining have a direct impact on the quality of airport security.”

Beth Moten, who is the legislative director for the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a letter to senators last week: “The responders to the tragedy of 9/11 were among the most highly unionized of public sector personnel….Suggestions that TSA workers would check with mythical ‘union bosses’ before performing their duties are terrible insults to the men and women who have prevented acts of transportation terrorism.”

Undoubtedly, this will carry little weight with those who are opposed to collective bargaining as a general rule. After all, facts have never stopped them before.

It should be noted, however, that these individuals don’t seem to object to the workers joining a union (which they will vote on later this year), they just don’t want them to have collective bargaining rights.


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