- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Washington Times should be ashamed of itself for its assault on the dedicated men and women of the Transportation Security Administration (“Undermining airport security,” Editorial, Monday). That The Times believes it is better to have a TSA work force that is subject to inconsistent agency regulations, supervisor retaliation, mandatory overtime, an ineffective and subjective pay system and grossly misguided testing and training procedures speaks volumes.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate that you reference was not for allowing the work force to bargain collectively but to move it to the General Schedule pay system - and even then, that number is speculative. TSA’s budget for 2009 is some $7 billion. The cost of providing a fair compensation system would be little more than 1 percent of that amount.

Your attack on the American Federation of Government Employees is without merit. While the union has asked TSA to suspend a portion of a questionable skills test that has resulted in unusually high failure rates, our goal in raising this issue was to flag for the agency a process that may not be yielding the results for which it was intended. TSA spends in excess of the 1 percent referenced above to have contractors design and administer its training programs. If transportation security officers are washing out at a higher than average rate, it is prudent business practice to suspend the test until it can be re-evaluated for efficiency. What we have and will continue take issue with are flawed performance systems that are subject to favoritism, nepotism and unregulated supervisor discretion.

Allowing Transportation Security Officers to bargain collectively would enhance national security in the following ways: providing a structure for the quick and fair resolution of workplace disputes; providing a forum to discuss and resolve important health and safety issues; reducing the number of on-the-job-injuries suffered by TSOs; reducing the high TSO turnover rate by providing a stable worker rotation that is fair, family-friendly and meets workplace needs; increasing public safety by allowing TSOs to go through their union to expose threats to aviation security without fear of retaliation; and addressing procedures for emergency or security situations through a jointly agreed-upon collective-bargaining agreement so that workers are fully aware of their duties in the event of an emergency.

Your editorial implies that management does not agree to a collective-bargaining agreement before it can be ratified by union members. Of course, this is not the case. Both TSA management and AFGE, on behalf of its thousands of TSA members, would negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement together - not in some sort of union power vacuum.

JOHN GAGE

National president

American Federation of Government

Employees

Washington

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