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Improving America's Security Act of 2007

Location: Washington, DC

IMPROVING AMERICA'S SECURITY ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - March 06, 2007)



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that amendment No. 301 be set aside and we return to the pending amendment that we had prior to my asking that those two amendments be called up.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Is there objection? Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I wish to spend a little bit of time talking about the process.

Yesterday, curiously, we had a hearing on the opportunity for labor representation for TSO officers. It is curious in that we had the hearing after the bill was on the floor because we didn't have the hearing before to know what we were talking about before we formulated the bill. That is because we wanted to rush this bill, and rather than do it right, we did the process backward.

But I think it is very instructive for us to hear what the testimony was yesterday. Kip Hawley is the Administrator of TSA. Some very important things were brought out in that hearing that most Americans probably don't think of often. Let me quote some of the things he said:

The job of the Transportation Security Officer is one in which you don't know whether you have an emergency until it is over, and in the aviation business, that is too late. There are a bedeviling array of dots out there and we have the responsibility to make sure that not one of them is allowed to progress and become an attack on the United States. So we constantly try to move and adjust and change and you cannot be sure until it is too late that you have had an emergency. You do not get an advanced warning.

In response to Senator Akaka regarding TSA's collaboration with employees on the decision to double the amount of bonus money that would be made available under their bonus performance plan, the question by Senator Akaka was:

Did you invite any union representatives to the initial development efforts?

In response to his question, he said:

No, sir. Our employees didn't have to pay union dues to get that service.

One of the other key points Secretary Hawley made is his concerns about his ability to move and sustain their strategy and flexibility.

Also coming out of that was the note that the union which would represent security officers won't be negotiating for pay. Well, what will they be negotiating for? They will be negotiating over everything else other than pay. Why is it important? Everything else is what matters.

What matters is--and specifically the reason this was not allowed when the 9/11 Commission Report was written and when the bill establishing TSA was set up--there is a moving target, and that flexibility in work rules, in relationships, in movement of people, in tier job training, and in multifaceted interface of those officers with any situation on the ground has to be able to be done and done on the move, all the time--not in an emergency because every day has to be thought of as an emergency. What we do know is all that is what they want to negotiate. That is the last thing we should be negotiating.

It comes down to this point, and the point is this: Do people who work for the Federal Government have rights? Absolutely. Should they be treated fairly and have the opportunity to have a good wage, a good appeal process, whistleblower protection? Yes. But is that right greater than the right of the American people to have secure and safe air travel? I would put forth for this body that it is not, that the betterment of the whole and the protection of the whole far outweighs any individual right within TSA to collectively bargain on the very things that are going to keep the flying American people safe.

What we do know is there are only 1,300 members out of 42,000 screeners now. They can all join a union, and they can have that representation in terms of their interface with management. What we also know is that the people who really want this opportunity are not the transportation security officers. Who wants this opportunity is the union and the politics of payback.

So this isn't really about responding. As a matter of fact, all of the claims that have been made, we fleshed all those out yesterday in the hearing. As to severance rates, as to work injury, as to movement, as to wage rates, as to bonus, as to productivity--all that was fleshed out. It should have been fleshed out before this bill ever came to the floor but, unfortunately, it wasn't. All that was fleshed out yesterday, and what came down is we have a very responsive agency that in the vast majority of the cases is doing a great job with their employees. We have great transportation security officers who are being remunerated properly and don't want to pay $360 a year for something that wants to negotiate the very thing that will take away the safety of our air transport system.

With that, I yield to the Senator from South Carolina.

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