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Mr. Southers avoided giving a definitive answer on the subject at a confirmation hearing and in an exchange of letters with Mr. DeMint.

While not saying whether he supported unionization, and noting he had previously worked as a chief officer in a unionized law enforcement agency, Mr. Southers pledged in an Oct. 14 letter to Mr. DeMint that he would put safety first in all decisions at TSA.

He said in the letter that he would not “support, recommend or endorse any system, practice or procedure that would potentially compromise the safety and security of the flying public.”

Mr. DeMint characterized the response as an attempt to “hide behind rhetoric.”

Under current law, TSA has discretion over whether to allow union representation of the security screeners. The agency has consistently decided against allowing unions for security reasons.