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Letter to Erroll G. Southers, Assistant Chief, Los Angeles World Airports Police Department


Location: Washington, DC

DeMint Requests Clear Answer About Whether Nominee Will Unionize TSA
Airport Security Too Important to Be Controlled by Union Bosses

Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), ranking member of the Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Subcommittee, sent a letter to Erroll Southers, President Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), asking for a clear answer about whether he will unionize the TSA's security screeners if confirmed.

"The safety and security of the American people are far too important to be controlled by union bosses," said Senator DeMint. "It's time for Mr. Southers to give an unequivocal answer: Will he give union bosses control over the safety of Americans at our airports, yes or no?

"Unionizing TSA would be a homeland security disaster. TSA needs to be nimble in responding to ever-changing threats. Having to wait and check with the union bosses before reacting to urgent aviation security threats reduces our ability to keep Americans safe. TSA must quickly move personnel to protect the traveling public, and allowing union bosses to control these decisions is a dangerous and unacceptable security risk."

A decision by the TSA administrator to allow collective bargaining with airport screeners would undermine homeland security. Requiring 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. DeMint's letter simply asks for a clear "yes" or "no" answer from Mr. Southers on whether he will reverse this long-standing commitment to passenger safety.

Text of the letter is below:

Erroll G. Southers, Assistant Chief
Los Angeles World Airports Police Department
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Mr. Southers:

Thank you for committing to serve as the Administrator of the Transportation Security Agency and taking the time to meet with me to discuss your vision. Your lifelong commitment to public safety and public service is laudable and quite impressive.

As I noted in the meeting I've been very impressed with the continual innovation of the Transportation Screening Officers (TSO). I've been pleased that the screening experience has become less troublesome, while continuing to ensure the safety of air travel. This is in large measure due to the innovative and flexible management approach of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) leadership.

Therefore, I am extremely concerned that a collective bargaining agreement with the TSOs would severely undermine the good work that has been made to improve the TSA. Congress understanding the need for a flexible management system gave the TSA Administrator broad management discretion. The Aviation Transport and Security Act states:

(d) SCREENER PERSONNEL.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security may employ, appoint, discipline, terminate, and fix the compensation, terms, and conditions of employment of Federal service for such a number of individuals as the Under Secretary determines to be necessary to carry out the screening functions of the Under Secretary under section 44901 of title 49, United States Code. The Under Secretary shall establish levels of compensation and other benefits for individuals so employed.

Your predecessors have determined that screeners "in light of their critical national security responsibilities, shall not, as a term or condition of their employment, be entitled to engage in collective bargaining or be represented for the purpose of engaging in such bargaining by any representative or organization." The authority to modify or continue this policy rests solely with you.

Unfortunately I didn't receive a clear answer from you during our meeting on whether or not you will permit screeners to engage in collective bargaining or be represented by a union for the purpose of collective bargaining. As you can imagine this is a crucial question that needs to be answered for Senators as they consider your nomination. So I would like to ask you the question again and I hope I can receive a written answer from you that begins with the words "Yes" or "No."

Mr. Southers, as Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, will you allow TSA Security Screeners to engage in collective bargaining or be represented by an organization for the purpose of collective bargaining?

I look forward to a prompt and precise answer to this question. Thank you again for your commitment to serve.

Jim DeMint
U.S. Senator

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