AFGE Says FLRA Will Review Its Regional Decision on Union Organizing at the Transportation Security Administration: Is Anyone Surprised?

The American Federation of Government Employees announced that the FLRA would review its Regional Director’s decision to deny an election based on a precedent set by a prior administration. The Author’s surprise may be a little facetious in that the current FLRA Chairman dissented in the old case.

In a press release, AFGE announced that the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) would review its Regional Director’s decision to deny an election based on a precedent set by a prior administration. Now I don’t know about you, but the decision is not a big shock in that Chairman Pope thought the Transportation Security Officers (formerly called screeners) should have been permitted to organize back in 2003 despite a law that appears to clearly leave such matters to the Agency’s discretion. (See Chairman Pope’s Dissents: A Crystal Ball for Future Decisions?)

Of course, a little thing like a law or Agency discretion won’t bother Ms. Pope’s Authority despite its getting fairly seriously chastened by the DC Circuit in a very recent organizing case involving the NLRB’s employees as previously reported.

In that case, a similar principle was involved and the FLRA, as usual, never gave a moment’s thought to whether the Agency interest might trump collective bargaining rights. 

This is a tough issue for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in particular and the Department of Homeland Security in General. During his campaign, the President promised the screeners they could organize but apparent realities have delayed implementing that promise. Among the problems is that if bargaining is authorized in TSA, screeners could bargain the full range of compensation and working conditions unlike the rest of the Federal service. Imagine the employee perceptions in an Agency such as Customs and Border Protection. 

These folks actually interdict drugs and illegals, often getting shot or at least shot at risking more than back strain. If the Johnny-come-lately screeners get greater rights than such as these, DHS will surely face a huge morale problem, but why would that concern FLRA?

In case after case, FLRA has held its law to be predominant and hasn’t been dismayed even after getting slapped down by the Supreme Court more than once.

You heard it here first. The FLRA will overturn the RD’s decision and grant organizing rights to TSA. The only shock would be if it didn’t happen.

As always, these are my opinions and I’m responsible for them.

About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.