Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas has ordered the Transportation Security Agency to expand collective bargaining rights for screening officers at the agency, a move that would put such workers more on par with the rest of the federal workforce.
Mayorkas’s order, announced June 3, also includes the creation of a plan to improve TSO compensation, long cited as one of the reasons that the agency has had such a hard time retaining employees.
“TSA employees are outstanding public servants who work on the frontlines, including throughout the pandemic, to keep the traveling American public safe,” Mayorkas said. “They deserve the empowerment of collective bargaining and a compensation structure that recognizes and rewards them for their contributions to our safety and security.”
According to Mayorkas, once the agency has updated its collective bargaining policies, it plans to contact the American Federation of Government Employees — which represents the non-supervisory TSO’s — to come to a new collective bargaining agreement.
“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. 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 AFGE, in a statement.
Some members of Congress have pushed to take TSA workforce reforms one step further by moving such employees under Title 5 of U.S. Code, which governs the rights and pay structure for most other government employees.
Opposition to such a move has said that Title 5 is broken in its own right, and changing the structure of the TSA workforce may harm the flexibilities needed by the agency to respond to national safety.
The Biden administration, however, has produced policy strongly in favor of expanding collective bargaining wherever possible.