Senate may consider bill denying TSA workers collective bargaining rights

The Senate on Monday could consider a controversial bill to deny TSA workers collective bargaining rights. 

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) indicated Monday that the Senate would take up his legislation, which he said could come to the Senate floor as early as Tuesday morning. 

Senate consideration would come just days after Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole's Feb. 4 announcement that he would give TSA officers (such as airport screeners) some collective bargaining rights, including on issues such as scheduling. Wicker sees that decision as one that could pose a security risk, since it could impede TSA's ability to move personnel around in emergency situations.

He also sees it as an effort by the Obama administration to reward Democrats. "Frankly, I think many observers would conclude that the current administration is intent on doling out rewards to campaign supporters, and therefore is moving to reverse this decade-old decision and allow for collective bargaining among TSA employees," Wicker said on the Senate floor.

"I don't believe our country needs 50,000 TSA screeners to be part of a union, but the Obama administration does," he added.

Another senator, Susan Collins (R-Maine), said today that the Senate would consider a modified Wicker amendment that gives TSA employees some rights. She said she has worked with Wicker and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to give more rights to TSA employees, although the amendment would still give TSA the flexibility to deploy resources the way it sees fit in order to deal with emergencies.

Collins said that, for example, the modified amendment would still give TSA employees the ability to be represented by a union on some issues, but would not give them collective bargaining rights. She also said it would give TSA employees the right to an independent appeal of adverse personnel decisions.

Even with these modifications, the amendment is still likely to be controversial, and several Democratic senators, including Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) have spoken against it over the last few days.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority last November decided that TSA employees can vote on union representation, and balloting on this question is expected to be held March 9 to April 19.

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