36 Senators Object to Provision Jeopardizing Air Travel Safety
Thirty-six U.S. Senators have now signed a letter to President Bush objecting to a provision in S. 4, the 9/11 Commission Recommendations bill, which would threaten the safety of the traveling public by introducing mandatory collective bargaining for airport security workers. With more than thirty-four senators currently on the letter, it now confirms that the Senate will sustain a presidential veto of the bill if it includes the TSA provision. The collective bargaining provision was recently added to S. 4 on a party-line vote in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The letter states:
"We are concerned that one of the provisions in S.4, the 9/11 Commission Recommendations bill, will undermine efforts to keep our country secure. Like you, we believe we need an airport security workforce that is productive, flexible, motivated, and can be held accountable. S.4 would introduce collective bargaining for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers, which would reverse the flexibility given to TSA to perform its critical aviation security mission. Removing this flexibility from TSA was not recommended by the 9/11 Commission and it would weaken our homeland security. If the final bill contains such a provision, forcing you to veto it, we pledge to sustain your veto."
The provision would reverse the flexibility given to the agency to perform its critical aviation security mission. Collective bargaining was specifically rejected by Congress following the 9-11 attacks, because Congress understood that airport security needs to be more responsive and adaptive to terrorist threats. In the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, Congress recognized that special flexibility for personnel performing key homeland security roles is critical.
"Forcing collective bargaining on TSA would be a homeland security disaster," said Senator DeMint. "Adding needless layers of bureaucracy will destroy our ability to quickly respond to new terror threats. It adds the kind of needless red tape that has weakened our security for years. We need to remember that TSA exists to protect American lives and it must have the tools to accomplish that mission.
"TSA employees already have the ability to join a union and they enjoy better working conditions, wages, and benefits than many Americans. Collective bargaining may generate millions of dollars in dues for union bosses, but it will do nothing to make American families safer from a terrorist attack."
According to an official statement released in January, the White House said it "vigorously disagrees with these provisions of the bill, which were not recommended by the 9/11 Commission and would substantially diminish the Secretary's flexibility to effectively manage the Department." It maintains that "by reducing TSA's flexibility to change the nature and location of TSA employees' work and other aspects of their employment" the measure "would reduce travelers' security."
The letter to President Bush has currently been signed by the following thirty-six senators: Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Wayne Allard (R-CO), Robert F. Bennett (R-UT), Christopher S. Bond (R-MO), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Bob Corker (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Larry E. Craig (R-ID), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Pete V. Domenici (R-NM), John Ensign (R-NV), Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), James M. Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Trent Lott (R-MS), Mel Martinez (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard C. Shelby (R-AL), Craig Thomas (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA), John Warner (R-VA).