Will Unions Represent Employees at the Transportation Security Administration?

Unions can be excluded from representing employees at TSA. Authority of the President to exclude employees from union representation is the crux of the dispute over the Homeland Security Dept. Will President exercise that authority at TSA?

The Department of Homeland Security is in critical condition largely due to differing views on whether the President should have the authority to exclude employees from being represented by a union because of national security concerns. The administration wants to keep its existing authority under the labor relations statute to remove employees from a bargaining unit when the President determines it is in the interest of national security. The Democrats, obviously supported by Federal employee unions, want to take away or substantially modify this authority in any legislation creating the new Department.

One agency that would be included in the new Department is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA was created after September 11 and, unlike the proposed legislation for the Dept. of Homeland Security, the President retained the right to exclude Federal employees from a bargaining unit in the interest of national security.

In other words, the thousands of new Federal employees who check baggage at the nation’s airports may end up being represented by a union, unless the President decides to exclude them in the interest of national security. There is some irony in this since the administration has fought hard, including the threat of a veto, to retain authority to keep Homeland Security employees out of a bargaining unit.

No announcement has been made as to what approach the administration will take. There is a good chance that President Bush will decide to invoke his authority to remove these new Federal employees from being represented by a union. In the meantime, unions are trying to rapidly organize those TSA federal employees. The American Federation of Government Employees has asked TSA Chief Loy not to oppose them. AFGE is reportedly active at 10 large airports and will soon be requesting representation elections at Baltimore and Tampa, Fla.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47