Washington D.C.—As expected by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the Chicago Regional Director of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) today dismissed petitions filed by NTEU and another union seeking a union representation election among employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
“This was the expected decision,” said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley, “and sets the stage for an appeal to the three-member FLRA asking it to review its 2003 decision turning down a request for a representation election in TSA because agency employees lack collective bargaining rights.”
President Kelley said NTEU will file such an application for review, raising the same fundamental questions about what exclusive representation means without collective bargaining rights, particularly questions about the nature of employee and union rights and TSA’s obligations to its employees and their union under those circumstances. NTEU raised these questions in an earlier filing with the Regional Director.
Meanwhile, NTEU continues to be engaged in an aggressive organizing campaign among TSA employees and represents thousands of them at airports across the nation.
NTEU’s preferred resolution of the present situation is for the administration to issue a directive granting TSA employees their long-denied rights to bargain collectively. “That would clear the way for a representation election that would bring to the TSA workplace a mechanism for the voices of frontline employees to be heard,” Kelley said. At the same time, she emphasized that NTEU continues to seek legislation that would provide for such rights.
“NTEU will continue our aggressive pursuit of collective bargaining rights for TSA employees, and regardless of the course taken, we will have a place on an eventual election ballot to ensure that employees have a choice of an exclusive representative,” she added.
TSA has yet to reach the status sought for it by Congress of a world-class transportation protection agency; it is troubled by high turnover, low morale, low pay and a variety of day-to-day workplace issues that collective bargaining is best-equipped to address.
While the efforts to secure such rights continue, an appeal of the Regional Director’s decision on the petitions to the full FLRA would give that agency the opportunity to revisit its 2003 decision and, if it finds that an election may be held despite the lack of collective bargaining rights, to delineate the rights TSA employees would have if they vote for exclusive union representation without collective bargaining rights.
In its filing this spring, NTEU raised serious questions about which subsections of federal labor laws would apply to TSA employees in the absence of collective bargaining rights, and particularly representation rights and duties.
“It is clear to NTEU that, prior to balloting, TSA employees should have the answers to these and other fundamental questions,” Kelley said. “This is critical information for them to use in making an informed decision in their best interests.”
NTEU won the 2006 FLRA-run election covering the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bargaining unit—the largest representation election in federal sector history—by a margin of more than two to one.
NTEU is the largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments, including the entire 24,000-employee CBP workforce. Like CBP, TSA is a unit of the Department of Homeland Security.