House passes bill to expand TSA worker protections

House passes bill to expand TSA worker protections
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The House passed legislation Thursday aimed at expanding worker protections for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers to put them on par with other federal employees.

Lawmakers passed the measure on a 230-171 vote, with 14 Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill.

The Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act — spearheaded by Democratic Reps. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonFederal watchdog finds chemical facilities vulnerable to cyberattacks FEMA cancels million mask contract Overnight Health Care: Pence press secretary tests positive for coronavirus | Watchdog recommends ousted vaccine expert be temporarily reinstated | Health care industry loses 1.4 million jobs MORE (Miss.) and Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyHouse Democrats object to Trump sending ventilators to Russia House-passed relief bill excludes lobbyists from Paycheck Protection Program House defeats effort to prevent stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants MORE (N.Y.) — would provide TSA workers with full collective bargaining rights and implement whistleblower protections.

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Proponents of the bill argue that TSA employees, who are among the lowest paid federal workers, should be granted the same protections enjoyed by other federal employees.

Rep. Mary Gay ScanlonMary Gay ScanlonBehind every gun law is a mom marching for her children COVID-19 is no excuse for Attorney General Barr to skirt the rule of law House passes bill to expand TSA worker protections MORE (D-Pa.) said during debate ahead of the vote that when the TSA was established after 9/11, "its administrator was given broad authority over its workforce with respect to setting up pay and workplace conditions. As such, transportation security officers, T.S.O.'s, have been unable to benefit from fair labor standards act protections or fall under the general schedule pay scale."

But critics argue that the current setup gives TSA the flexibility needed to discipline employees who violate rules that pose risks to national security.

"TSA has repeatedly told us that [these changes] would tie the agency's hands related to national security policy, workforce management, and collective bargaining," Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) said on the floor. "Specifically, TSA would not be able to continue a one-step removal process for employees found to have committed serious security breaches or misconduct such as allowing unauthorized access to secure areas or allowing threat items and illicit contraband through the security checkpoints."

The bill was amended at the eleventh hour using a motion to recommit led by Lesko to add language that ensures “the TSA Secretary could not hire individuals who have been convicted of a sex crime, an offense involving a minor, a crime of violence, or terrorism.”

The measure now heads to the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle with the GOP majority.