In testimony delivered on November 16 to the House Homeland Security Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National President Everett Kelley stressed the critical need to protect Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) by fully funding the government, passing legislation that would provide them with fair workplace rights, and implementing a zero-tolerance policy for abuse at the hands of passengers and supervisors.
In his written testimony for the hearing entitled, “On the Frontlines in Turbulent Times: Workforce Perspectives on the State of Transportation Security,” Kelley noted that he cannot recall a time when conditions were not turbulent for TSOs.
“The point I want to make most clearly is: TSOs protect the flying public and keep our skies safe,” said Kelley. “They show up and do their jobs in the most trying of circumstances and have done so time and time again over the 20 years TSA has been in operation. They have been there through poverty, panic and now a pandemic.”
Earlier in November, AFGE, which represents 45,000 TSA officers nationwide, called on the Biden Administration to change the vaccination deadline for federal employees to January 4 with a deadline of January 18 to be fully vaccinated. This extension is equivalent to the new deadline set for federal contractors.
In addition to providing parity in the implementation of the vaccine mandate with contractors, Kelley also outlined several recommendations for the Committee. These included fully funding the government before December 3; employing zero-tolerance of violence and abuse at the checkpoints; extending that same zero-tolerance to TSA supervisors; planning for adequate staffing needs; and passing legislation to guarantee full collective bargaining rights and increased pay for TSOs.
As Americans have begun to travel more, it is incumbent upon TSA to not only remind passengers to arrive early and expect long lines, but to also prepare its supervisors and TSOs for the holiday rush. AFGE is calling on the subcommittee to urge TSA to fully prepare staffing levels and address the potential for long lines and disruptive passengers.
The union says these practical steps will cause less turbulence, ensure passenger and employee safety, and allow the traveling public to focus on the good of the holiday season.
“They are a proud, enduring and resilient workforce,” Kelley added. “We count on TSOs to do an essential job for our security and now is a time for TSOs to count on the support of their government to provide them a safe, respectful and fully-funded place of work.”