Aggressive Union Organizing at Transportation Security Administration: National Security Issues?

The Author looks at one of the unions involved in organizing TSA. In a letter to airport screeners, a union president promises to continue pressure for a collective bargaining agreement and that if NTEU is elected, all Federal security Agencies present at an airport will be represented by the same union. The Author asks if that is a good idea. You decide.

In “A Message From NTEU,”  National President Colleen Kelley discusses the status of the election at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The days of broad scale union organizing in the Federal sector are largely over. For those of you who haven’t seen union organizing material, this message and the ones Ms. Kelley links to will prove very instructional. It’s worth a read.

If you follow the links in the message, you’ll come to one that is very interesting. Titled At Your Airport, the Gang’s All Here” it reads:

These are the frontline homeland security colleagues who NTEU represents at your airport:

• U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers
• Legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Officers
• Agriculture Specialists

As a TSA employee, NTEU should represent you as well.
NTEU has played a key role in addressing and protecting workplace conditions at CBP for more than 30 years. In 2006, CBP Officers chose NTEU over AFGE by more than a 2–1 margin, making NTEU the exclusive representative of the 24,000-employee unit.

There is strength in numbers. There is strength in NTEU.
Join the rest of your airport colleagues in choosing NTEU—the strongest, fastest-growing union in the federal sector.

In essence, NTEU is telling the TSA screeners that if they vote for that union, all eligible Federal security employees in airports nation-wide will be represented by the same labor organization. From a national security prospective, an open question is whether this is a good idea.

If NTEU wins, and the screeners, CBP officers, INS Officers and former APHIS Inspectors (now agriculture specialists) will be represented by arguably the most top down union representing Federal employees.

Unlike other unions (notably their current election rival, AFGE), NTEU collects dues centrally and parcels money out to its locals, and is more centrally managed and operated. So if one NTEU group, lets say Customs and Border Patrol, is engaged in some dispute with its management, will that provoke a role for the screeners?

Some would argue that Federal law makes job actions a crime but that didn’t stop PATCO in the early eighties. PATCO was another top down, centrally managed operation that was involved in, you’ve got it, airports. Even if job action threats aren’t advanced, PATCO’s successor, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, has used its political leverage to get pay bargaining and some pretty amazing work rules. What might a single airport security union be able to leverage? You be the judge.

Any opinion you detect above is mine alone.

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.