FLRA Says Airport Screeners Can Have A Union But No Collective Bargaining

In what the author calls perhaps the wackiest decision in the history of Federal labor relations, the FLRA decides to allow the election of a union to represent TSA officers with no collective bargaining permitted.

In an amazing decision, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) has ordered an election to determine the union that will represent Federal employee baggage screeners at the Transportation Security Administration’s airport sites. 

The FLRA found that the screeners can have a union but not engage in collective bargaining. The FLRA, abandoning all pretense of neutrality, clearly took a political and also demonstrably silly stance in its decision. One of the footnotes in the case is typical of the stretching of everyone’s credulity this case involves. They say:

 We acknowledge that the cited decisions are not representation decisions. Nevertheless, they demonstrate that labor organizations may be exclusive representatives under the Statute even if they have limited collective-bargaining rights.

In each and every instance cited in the text, some minor wrinkle in the Agency’s law limits negotiation on a very few topics and in most cases only one while the discretion at TSA is over all aspects of the employment relationship. It is the exact result of how lawyers operating in the vacuum of DC and the even less airy vacuum of the FLRA have no clue about how the
government operates.  

They then proceed to perhaps the most amazing language in any Federal
appeal’s agency’s history,

We agree with the dissent that there is a difference between “some collective bargaining and no collective bargaining.” Dissent at 13. However, in our view, there is an even more critical difference between being represented for all statutory purposes (including collective bargaining) and being unable to be represented for any statutory purposes at all. Footnote 10.

You can hear FLRA’s political appointees crying out, Mr. President, Mr. President, we did It all for you, you said they could have a union, now they will! If you recall, the president promised in his campaign that screeners would be allowed to unionize.

I’m gonna say I told you so since I predicted this but then predicting wackiness on the part of the current FLRA is not a leap but more like a sure thing.  In footnote number 12, the Authority actually declined to declare an issue unconstitutional. Not, we can’t do that,
merely we decline to. Princeton University’s website defines Megalomania as “a psychological state characterized by delusions of grandeur.”

About Member Beck’s dissent, Footnote 12 states:

We note that the dissent also poses several questions regarding what will occur if the petitions are processed, and asserts that the questions “demonstrate that our Statute does not countenance the election of an exclusive representative that has no collective bargaining rights.” Dissent at 15. However, the dissent’s questions do not have such far-reaching implications. They simply “demonstrate” that recognizing an exclusive representative with less than full collective bargaining rights has the potential to raise complex legal issues – the type of issues that the Authority frequently is faced with
under the Statute. We may not abdicate our statutory responsibility to effect statutory rights merely because doing so may raise additional, complex questions.

I think that says that we are making this decision in the hope of creating many more cases that we can then decide. 

In contrast, it’s worth the time to read Member Beck’s dissent. Because of the nature of this case, it will likely not go to court, unlike the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that prevailed against the Authority recently in another inflated ego case. Shame on you Members Pope and Dubester. You have done a disservice to the law and the labor relations program in the Federal sector.

If you see an opinion above, I bear the sole responsibility for it.

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.