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Dept. of Homeland Security

DHS Expands Bargaining Rights for TSA Employees

The DHS order explores pay reform for the agency

Brian Young's picture
Jun 07, 2021

Nearly 20 years ago the Transportation Safety Agency (TSA) was formed following the 9/11 attacks. When they were formed, Transportation Safety Officers (TSO) were banned from joining a union, although that right was granted in 2011 under President Obama. Since then, they have had limited bargaining rights, but that is set to change after Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced an expansion of their rights on the job.

In a statement to the TSA, Mayorkas instructed the agency to make a plan to improve compensation for employees and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to work to ensure that TSA processes adhere to Merit Systems Protection Board principles and will evaluate personnel policies like appeal procedures for potential changes.

"TSA employees are outstanding public servants who work on the frontlines, including throughout the pandemic, to keep the traveling American public safe," Mayorkas said in a statement. "They deserve the empowerment of collective bargaining and a compensation structure that recognizes and rewards them for their contributions to our safety and security."

Unlike other federal employees, TSA workers are not considered Title 5 employees. Title 5 grants whistleblower protections and puts the workers on a general salary schedule. Mayorkas’ decision will also allow the agency and the union to reopen their contract to bring it more inline with the contracts that other agencies have received.

“You deserve to be compensated fairly and fully for your important work,” Mayorkas said Thursday in a video message to TSA employees. “We are committed to ensuring that TSA is ready to quickly implement pay reform if and when additional resources are provided in the future, and we will fight for those resources.”

The AFGE, which represents 46,000 non-supervisory TSO’s, called the announcement a major victory. They have been working for years to get these workers moved into Title 5 which would give them similar pay and protections to other federal workers.

“AFGE members have been fighting for nearly two decades to put an end to the system of separate and unequal treatment that the government has imposed on Transportation Security Officers (TSOs). This is a win for equity and a defeat for the inexcusable history of disparate treatment of TSOs. It is extraordinarily gratifying to see such a significant victory today for our union and for these incredible public servants,” said Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest union representing 700,000 federal workers and nearly 46,000 TSA officers nationwide.

The union also promised to continue fighting for the passage of H.R. 903 and S.1856 which would give full statutory protections under Title 5 to TSO’s and would not be able to be removed by the next President like Mayorkas order could.

“In the nearly two decades since the 9/11 attacks, the working people of the TSA have been tasked with keeping our skies safe,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “For more than a year, these front-line workers have carried out that duty in the midst of unprecedented threats to their health and safety. Yet time and again, they have been denied their most fundamental rights on the job. Today’s announcement is a critical victory for tens of thousands of hardworking union members and will finally allow TSA workers to bargain for their future like other federal workers. We urge TSA’s leadership to immediately come to the table to reach a fair contract, and we call on Congress to finally codify these workers’ bargaining rights into law by passing the Rights for the TSA Workforce Act.”

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