U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander today voted to support an amendment to legislation implementing the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations that would preserve the managerial flexibility included in the federal aviation security law passed by Congress in response to September 11th.
“This really boils down to a choice between big labor and national security, and that’s not a difficult choice to make,” Alexander said. “The 9/11 Commission purposely did not recommend collective bargaining for airport screeners, and there’s no reason we should be adding it on now. It’s not as if the world has somehow become a safer place.”
The Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 explicitly recognized the need for special flexibility for personnel performing key homeland security roles, including airport screeners. The law granted the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) the authority to deny collective bargaining, in part because terrorists would likely exploit any negotiated routine screening procedures. The same prohibition applies to the FBI, CIA and Secret Service. Airport screeners are still allowed to join a union, however.
"TSA needs the flexibility to be able to respond in real time to changes in airport security and travel demand,” Alexander said. “Having to negotiate such changes – some of which are based on classified information – with separate unions at hundreds of different airports is hardly conducive to the goals of keeping flying safe and minimizing delays for travelers.”
Along with 36 of his Senate colleagues, Alexander signed a letter to President Bush pledging to sustain a veto of the 9/11 bill if TSA collective bargaining is not removed.