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Airplane Travel Is Safer, Easier Thanks to Federal Workers

AFGE applauds TSA officers for protecting flying public,
warns against return to contractors

WASHINGTON – As millions of Americans prepare to take to the skies this holiday season, the head of the labor union representing federal airport security employees says now is the time to thank these workers for the job they do.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. released the following statement:

“When airports began experiencing massive lines at passenger checkpoints two summers ago, the Transportation Security Administration relied on its trained staff of 42,000 federal employees to ease the crush by working more overtime and performing their jobs effectively and efficiently.

“Now as we head into another busy holiday traveling season, the long lines and wait times are gone. There have been no hijacked airplanes, explosives detonated on airplanes, or any other aircraft-specific U.S. acts of terrorism since federal employees took over passenger screening after Sept. 11, 2001.

“This is a tall order since TSA still has about 4,000 fewer screeners on staff today as compared to four years ago. That’s coupled with a 15 percent jump in the number of passengers flying through U.S. airports. TSA officers do their job so well they have confiscated a record number of guns last year and are on track to beat that record this year.

“TSA employees protect the safety of the flying public under stressful and sometimes dangerous conditions. They could perform even better with more trained staff, higher wages, and full union rights.

“What they shouldn’t have to worry about is losing their jobs to outsourcing and privatization.

“This Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for the officers who risk their lives to keep our air travel safe, and let’s maintain the path forward we’ve made in airport security with our hardworking, dedicated TSA employees. The best way to ensure safe travel is to invest in TSA, not privatize it.”

5 Fast Facts about TSA

  1. In 2016, TSA screened more than 738 million passengers — 43 million more passengers than in 2015.
  2. TSA officers discovered 3,391 firearms in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country last year, a 28 percent increase from 2015.
  3. About 83 percent of the guns caught in carry-on bags in 2016 were loaded.
  4. The top five airports where TSA officers detected guns at checkpoints in 2016 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (198 guns); Dallas/Fort Worth International (192 guns); George Bush Intercontinental at Houston (128 guns); Phoenix Sky Harbor International (101 guns); and Denver International (98 guns). These same airports were in the top five in 2014 and 2015.
  5. During summer and holiday travel peaks, TSA processes over 2.5 million passengers a day.

AFGE And TTD Push For Passage Of Transportation Security Officers Act

AFGE members of the Local 556 Orlando (2010). Image by AFGE FLIKR

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) both announced their support of a bill granting Title 5 rights to TSA Officers from Representatives Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Nita Lowey of New York.Introduced last year as The Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act, this year’s bill finally grants transportation security officers (TSOs) the same workplace rights as all federal employees, including their colleagues in the Department of Homeland Security.

“Implementing basic worker protections for those charged with protecting our skies is a necessary step to increase security and improve workforce morale. TSA’s current personnel system has not served the agency well and lacks the means to attract and retain a strong workforce,” said Rep. Thompson. “This legislation we introduced today will ensure TSA’s personnel and labor management systems are brought in line with the rest of the federal government under Title 5.  I hope my colleagues will agree that these frontline security workers should receive the rights and benefits they earned.”

“More than 42,000 Transportation Security Officers who serve on the front lines of aviation security at airports across the United States are denied worker rights and protections, including full collective bargaining, the right to a fair grievance and arbitration system, and statutory civil rights protections. Transportation Security Officers should be treated like their fellow employees across the Federal government. Our bill would grant TSO these rights, enhancing America’s security by retaining experienced and dedicated officers with improved workforce morale. To truly provide comprehensive transportation security, we must take care of those who take care of us,” said Rep. Lowey.

The new legislation would put TSOs on the General Schedule pay scale and provide them with much needed statutory worker protections like the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Being recognized as equal counterparts to their fellow federal employees would greatly improve workplace conditions and boost morale – which fell to an all-time low last year – at the agency.

“Thank you to Representatives Thompson and Lowey for once again recognizing how important it is to offer fair treatment to the men and women who risk their lives guarding our airports every day,” said AFGE TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas. “Last year our TSA Officers stopped a record number of firearms, dealt with a massive influx in passenger volume while being understaffed, and once again kept our flying public safe – all while being treated like second class citizens in their workplace. Being offered fair pay, workplace protections, the right to appeal adverse decisions to a third party, and full collective bargaining rights are long overdue and will help boost morale for the working people who safeguard our skies,” he added.

“Last year our TSA Officers were faced with a nearly insurmountable task, but they rose to the occasion and got the American traveling public to where they needed to be,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. Adding, “We are thrilled that Representatives Thompson and Lowey have once again introduced legislation that will finally offer our officers the same rights and protections as the rest of the federal workforce. TSA Officers have safeguarded our airports for 16 years, and have done an admirable job. Equal treatment by the federal government is desperately needed and very appreciated by the men and women who make sure you can fly without fear.”

“We applaud Reps. Bennie Thompson, Nita Lowey and Bonnie Watson Coleman for introducing legislation that gives our nation’s hardworking Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) the workplace rights and protections they deserve,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD).

“Every day, our nation’s 45,000 TSOs play a critical role in keeping our nation’s transportation system safe from security threats. Yet, because of a loophole in federal law, these men and women lack the basic protections afforded to other federal employees. The legislation introduced today will right these wrongs and bring much-needed reforms to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that will boost employee morale and retention rates and improve the agency’s ability to protect us from security threats.

“As Congress debates reauthorization of the TSA, lawmakers must standup for our nation’s transportation security officers who play an indispensable role in keeping our country safe,” Wytkind concluded.

AFGE and TTD both urge Congress to pass the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act to recognize the daily sacrifices TSA Officers make to protect the flying public.

Federal Union Leader: 2016 GOP Platform ‘A Hostile Takeover of the Civil Service System’

Leader of largest federal employees’ union blasts proposals to cut pay and benefits, privatize government services, and politicize the workforce

AFGE National President J. David Cox, Sr.WASHINGTON – In response to the release of the 2016 Republican Party Platform, J. David Cox, Sr., National President of the American Federation of Government Employees, representing 670,000 federal and D.C. government employees across the country, issued the following statement:

The 2016 Republican Platform makes clear the GOP has moved so close to the extremes that it opposes the very government it seeks to lead. The platform advocates such profound changes to the terms of government employment that, if enacted, it would bring to end the merit-based, apolitical civil service system. Without Constitutional due process rights and free unions to provide accountability and transparency to government employment, government employment would cease to be a professional civil service. What would ensue is quite predictable and occurs wherever there is an absence of the rule of law: a government staffed with cronies and political protectors that will fail to provide quality services to the American people. A spoils system staffed by those hired because who they know, not what they can do.

AFGE_Logo_high+resThe platform’s ignorance and misrepresentation of the facts about federal pay and benefits should be an embarrassment. The truth is that federal pay lags the private sector and state and local governments by an average of 35% according the Federal Salary Council and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And federal benefits only look generous when compared to the shameful practice of private employers who provide nothing or next to nothing for their employees in the way of pensions or insurance. Federal compensation has always been modest, but three years of frozen pay and substantial pension cutbacks enacted over the last several years in the name of deficit reduction have impoverished thousands of federal employees and their families. The notion of dragging a border patrol agent or a VA nursing assistant’s living standards down even lower is despicable.

The Republican platform also shows a horrible irresponsibility for the public interest in its embrace of privatization. Handing over the government’s work to profit-hungry contractors at the expense of public safety and health is a guarantee of scandal. Dismantling the veterans’ health care system by closing down hospitals and clinics and telling veterans to find their own care through a privatized insurance system is a disgraceful and outrageous abrogation of the promise our nation makes to those who have worn our nation’s uniform. Today veterans can walk into any VA hospital and access seamlessly integrated primary/specialty care in addition to financial, educational, housing, vocational, and other benefits. Closing down the VA would mean more than just dangerous degradation in their health care. It would also mean missed opportunities for direct employment and job assistance, obtaining an education, and help with overcoming addiction or homelessness.

The platform’s plan to privatize TSA would also be a dangerous and expensive disaster, throwing away a decade and a half of reliable airport security and returning us the pre-9/11 model that failed to such devastating effect. Instead of dismantling the TSA, the platform should demand that the agency receive the funding and staff it needs to do its jobs safely and efficiently, which a Republican-led Congress has failed to do for years.”

#####

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Congressional Response to Airport Wait Times Falls Far Short, TSA Union Says

AFGE says Congress must lift arbitrary workforce cap
and fund 6,000 additional security officers

AFGE TSA WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing Transportation Security Officers at our nation’s airports, says recent Congressional actions to reduce passenger wait times are a good step but that the permanent solution remains hiring an additional 6,000 full-time screeners.

Congress on Monday approved shifting $28 million within the Transportation Security Administration’s current budget to convert 2,784 part-time officers to full-time positions and accelerate the hiring of 600 additional officers by the end of the fiscal year. This follows a similar action in May that enabled TSA to expedite the hiring of 768 new officers and pay additional overtime for current workers.

“The reprogramming requests that Congress has approved should provide some short-term relief to TSA officers who are clearly overworked and a flying public that is understandably frustrated,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“However, the funding shifts fall far short in addressing the underlying issue, which is the failure of Congress to provide TSA with sufficient resources to meet its staffing needs and ensure the safety and security of the flying public,” Cox said.

Congress has set an arbitrary cap on the number of officers that the agency can hire, limiting TSA to no more than 45,000 screeners – although TSA can’t even meet the cap due to budget cuts.

Cox praised a group of 70 House lawmakers who sent a letter to leaders of the Homeland Security budget committee on June 8 calling the cap “arbitrary” and “illogical” and urging appropriators to remove it from the 2017 spending bill.

“Congress has set TSA up for failure by restricting how many workers it can hire and then slashing its budget to the point that it can’t even hire up to the arbitrary cap,” Cox said. “This results in passengers waiting two or three hours to get through checkpoints at peak times, while security lanes remain closed because there’s no staff to run them.

“Congress must lift this arbitrary worker cap and provide TSA with enough money to hire 6,000 additional officers, which would restore staffing levels to what they were in 2011.”

Los Angeles TSA Officer Shares His Story in Debut “I Am AFGE” Documentary

AFGE member and LAX Officer Victor Payes recalls harrowing Nov. 1 shooting, threats to TSOs and flying public

WASHINGTON – An American Federation of Government Employees member who serves as a Transportation Security Officer at Los Angeles International Airport and witnessed the aftermath of the fatal Nov. 1 shooting there shares his story in the debut video for AFGE’s documentary series, “I Am AFGE.”

Victor Payes raced to the airport as soon as he heard the news that a gunman had opened fire at the airport, fatally shooting his coworker Gerardo Hernandez and wounding two other TSA officers and a civilian. Victor wasn’t scheduled to report to work for another three hours but he knew he had to be there to support his colleagues and serve his country.

“The shooting had happened at 9 a.m. By four o’clock we were back to business,” Victor says in the AFGE video, which is being released today.

The shooting was a stark reminder to Victor and his colleagues of the reason why TSA was created in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: to protect the American public from harm. It also highlighted the threats that security officers face every day in doing their jobs.

“As time has gone on, unfortunately that threat has not just developed to the American public, it’s developed as a threat to us as well,” Victor says. “That serves as a reminder and a reinforcement to us that we’re there for more than just a paycheck. We’re there truly to provide a service to the public.”

A son of immigrants, Victor Payes takes pride in his job because it allows him to provide for his family while giving back to America.

“As an AFGE member, working at TSA, I know millions of people count on us to make sure they make it to their destination safely, and I’m proud to say that we do our job to make sure they get there safely,” he says.

Victor’s story is the first to be featured in AFGE’s year-long campaign to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the women and men who work for them each and every day. The centerpiece of the “I Am AFGE” campaign is 15 short-form documentaries that will be released every three weeks through the end of the year, highlighting individual federal employees like Payes who carry out important work across the country.

The campaign kicked off last week with the release of a two-minute video that highlights the invaluable services federal employees deliver and explains how federal employees have much in common with the citizens they are sworn to serve.

All of the videos will be posted online and distributed to hundreds of news outlets across the country. The campaign also will be promoted through social media, an employee photo contest and other events.

In addition, a special toll-free phone line has been established to record and share testimonials from federal employees or citizens who value the services that federal employees provide. The number to call is 1-844-IAM-AFGE (426-2343).

“AFGE is proud to represent the more than 45,000 TSA officers who protect our skies each and every day under demanding and sometimes dangerous circumstances,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “They and all other federal employees are the most dedicated workers you could ever have the fortune of meeting. This campaign is our way of shining a light on them and reminding the public why the work that they do matters.”

Rep Shea-Porter Say ‘NO’ To Knives On Planes

Shea-Porter to TSA: Protect Passengers and Keep Knives off Planes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter cosponsored legislation that would reverse a recent decision by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to allow small knives in the cabins of airplanes.

“Common sense tells us that knives should not be allowed on airplanes,” Shea-Porter said. “They’re an unnecessary risk, and if the TSA won’t reconsider this policy, Congress should take action.”

Preventing knives on commercial planes keeps flight attendants, pilots and passengers out of harm’s way and gives travelers peace of mind. Additionally, reversing the TSA decision will keep security lines moving as TSA agents will not have to inspect each knife that passes through a checkpoint.

In a letter to the TSA dated March 11, U.S. Airways CEO Doug Parker wrote, “The announcement this past week to begin allowing certain knives back into the cabins of commercial aircraft is of concern to us and we ask you to reconsider this decision.”

The Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations – groups made up of flight attendants, pilots and law enforcement officers – all oppose the TSA’s policy change and do not believe that policies that promote standards of safety and security should be relaxed.

(Below is a post from CWA on the press conference held in Washington DC)

Outrage Grows Over Allowing Knives on Planes 

Communications Workers of America

At a press conference today on Capitol Hill, the Coalition of Flight Attendants Union rallied their growing number of allies against TSA’s new policy allowing small knives on planes.

This week Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) introduced a bill to stop the TSA policy from taking effect as planned on April 25 — what’s now being called the “No Knives Act.”

“If TSA won’t reverse its policy to allow knives onto planes, then Congress will take action with this legislation,” said Markey. “There is no reason for a passenger to have a knife on a plane and allowing knives on planes puts our Flight Attendants, pilots, and passengers at greater risk.”

Grimm, along with two other members of the House homeland security committee — Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) — have already formally objected to the decision.

They’re joined by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who said the items could be used as weapons. “While it’s true that pilots are safe, locked behind cockpit doors, these dangerous items still pose a significant hazard to the flight crew, other passengers, and even the integrity of the plane,” said Schumer.

Pilots and air marshals agree. US Airways and Delta are calling on TSA Administrator John Pistole to reconsider the decision.

And some families of 9/11 victims are speaking out against the reversal of the knife ban.

Sign AFA’s White House Petition and help keep knives and other dangerous objects out of the aircraft cabin and on the ground where they belong.

AFGE and TSA Agree To Historic Labor Contract

AFGE Logo (via Twitter)

(WASHINGTON) –The American Federation of Government Employees today announced that it has come to an agreement with the Transportation Security Administration on the first-ever labor contract at the agency.

“For 10 long years AFGE has fought hard so that Transportation Security Officers would have collective bargaining rights. We have often looked back and wondered why it was taking so long,” said AFGE National President John Gage. “Today we begin to look forward.”

“This collective bargaining agreement will better the working lives of 45,000 hard-working, dedicated employees, and that’s a fantastic feeling,” AFGE TSA Council 100 President Kim Kraynak-Lambert said. “TSOs come to work every day in the face of intense public and congressional scrutiny and, to the best of their ability, protect this nation from terrorist attacks. Now we can look forward to new rights and new working conditions, and a chance to form a true labor-management partnership. And, contrary to some of the misinformation circulating about TSA, an agreement will not adversely affect security – security related matters were strictly excluded from negotiations. In fact, this agreement will strengthen our ability to carry out TSA’s vital mission of protecting the American people.”

“What this contract will do is provide for increased uniformity on fair treatment and the other issues important to employees across the nation’s airports,” Gage added. “Both parties believe the agreement will also provide much needed schedule flexibility. Improvements in working conditions will also benefit both TSA and the officers by fostering a family-friendly workplace where the employees have greater job satisfaction and feel supported in performing their important security work.”

The parties were also able to finalize terms of a new dispute resolution process. “This new procedure will enhance fairness and due process for TSOs,” Gage said. “Independent, third-party review is a right that ensures transparency and will improve the working lives of our officers.”

The entire TSA workforce will have the opportunity to vote on whether to ratify the collective bargaining agreement. That ratification process will take place in the coming months.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 625,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. For the latest AFGE news and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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