Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued an order Thursday expanding the bargaining rights of Transportation Security Administration employees and directing the agency to create a plan for better pay.
The directive complies with an April executive order from President Joe Biden and fits into a broader agenda to boost the rights of employees in the workplace. Biden has also ordered a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors and called on Congress to pass legislation (H.R. 842) that would expand workers’ rights to form unions and win contracts.
The union representing federal government workers has long argued that TSA employees are unfairly subject to weaker bargaining standards and compensation than other federal employees. The determination from the Biden administration will bring pay and workplace protections in line with those in other agencies, said Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees.
“AFGE members have been fighting for nearly two decades to put an end to the system of separate and unequal treatment that the government has imposed on Transportation Security Officers,” Kelley said in a statement. His union says it represents “700,000 federal workers and nearly 46,000 TSA officers.”
When the Transportation Security Administration was formed in 2001, airport security screeners were excluded from the employment standards for other federal workers, including protections against pay discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, praised the decision and said he would work to pass legislation (H.R. 903) that would codify expanded workplace rights for TSA employees. The House passed similar legislation in the previous Congress but it wasn’t taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate.
“TSA frontline officers have been grossly underpaid and denied basic workplace rights for far too long,” Thompson said in a statement.
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