Transportation Security Officers have a spiffy new collective bargaining agreement

Transportation security officers have reached what their union calls a groundbreaking bargaining agreement with the TSA.

Transportation Security Officers have reached what their union calls a groundbreaking bargaining agreement with the TSA. It covers everything from uniforms to airport safety itself. The Federal Drive with Tom Temin gets more now from the president of Council 100 of the American Federation of Government Employees, Thomas Hydrick.

Interview Transcript: 

Tom Temin Tell us about this agreement. First of all, how long have you been bargaining over this particular round here? How long did this take to establish?

Hydrick Thomas Whole process started in April of last year. Took approximately a year because it started with the ground rules. That’s on what you can, can’t do. Who’s going to agree on what.

Tom Temin So a year is actually not that bad these days for.

Hydrick Thomas For us its’ not bad because this is our first collective bargaining agreement.

Tom Temin But there was a pay hike for TSOs earlier, but that wasn’t a result of a bargaining agreement.

Hydrick Thomas No, that was a result of the DHS secretary, and he had a conversation with the TSA administrator at the TSA, that employees have been making more money, so I guess they went to Congress with that.

Tom Temin All right. So now you have the money and now you have the contract. What are some of the most important provisions you feel are in this?

Hydrick Thomas This is a process of the grievance, the disciplinary action that they’ve been in the past, who has had no real rights to defend themselves against unfair disciplinary actions brought against them.

Tom Temin And what do they have now? How does the process work?

Hydrick Thomas The process now you have to go can go to SBP. That’s a federal grievance process. You can take it through. Before we only took it to the TSA, it was like you said, a judge and a jury. And they decided on what type of discipline and what punishment you received for what they alleged that you committed.

Tom Temin What are the kinds of things that tended to happen a lot with respect to TSOs.

Hydrick Thomas I’ll use an example of what I dealt with in a way, you know, incident happened on a checkpoint, prohibited items came in, a supervisor writes a statement saying that they turned to checkpoint over to BUE. And next thing you know, the BUE says, well, I can’t write a statement because I wasn’t in charge.  This said, well the supervisor wrote a statement that you were so to read, you refused to write the statement because he was on the lane. Next thing you know the BUE gets a three-day suspension, for failure to comply to direct order.

Tom Temin Right, the BUE stands for.

Hydrick Thomas Bargaining unit employees TSOs.

Tom Temin I see. Okay. So, in other words, they were wrongly pinged in many cases for letting things through. So now they don’t like the outcome of a complaint with TSA. They have another court of appeal, you might say. And what else is in there?

Hydrick Thomas We have the uniform allowance, which you notice to give us a $425. Plus, they give you three replacements. But then they’re selling the jacket online for $300. So, you have $100 to buy shirts and pants. The pants now are $117 for a pair of cargo pants, which in the past it might have been $69. So, because they say everything had to be American made, but they don’t give you American money to buy American made items.

Tom Temin So what do you have now?

Hydrick Thomas We have approximately $600 that we spend on a uniform company that they deal with. And we also get two replacement uniforms.

Tom Temin And that’s every year.

Hydrick Thomas Yes. Once a year? Yes.

Tom Temin A few years ago, there was a problem with the uniforms because the material was scratchy. Have they fixed that?

Hydrick Thomas Yes, because some people, you know, certain garments like the shirts, certain people can’t wear polyester blend. They have to wear 100% cotton. So, you know cotton is a little bit more expensive. So, they to basically order the uniforms for those employees, which, you know, they complied. They give them a certain amount, but they don’t get no extra money to buy the material their body can withstand.

Tom Temin So now there is enough money then allowed per TSO, per year to cover the cost of these more expensive types of uniforms.

Hydrick Thomas Yes it is.

Tom Temin Do they wear out pretty fast?

Hydrick Thomas They try some new material. They give it to the union representatives. We have a uniform committee. They get to wear pants. Some people say they fade out too quick, like we wash them because they’re washable. So now they’re trying a new one. And hopefully that will can work. Actually, enough money. You can buy enough uniforms to basically have for the year.

Tom Temin Right, you want to look sharp.

Hydrick Thomas You definitely do.

Tom Temin And now you have been a TSO for a long time. Now you’re on official time. But in your experience, what is the toughest thing about the job?

Hydrick Thomas The toughest thing about the job is when they hire inexperienced employees. I feel this is my personal opinion because I’m a former marine. I’m out of the military. We’re looking for explosives, and the training that they receive is not sufficient to do the job 100%. They have recertification, they have extra additional training, and you need to you can still solicit and say I need to be trained. And they’ll send you for additional training.

Tom Temin Right? So, it’s not even dealing with a difficult public, but it’s dealing with inexperienced new colleagues. It’s the toughest part.

Hydrick Thomas The dealing with the public is the hardest part, because a lot of the flying public don’t understand when you do a certain procedure like you might have to tell a male passenger be patted down your arm, the legs, and your body. I have to do a personal pat down to back my hand on your private area. So now think that you just feel up on them because we can’t tell them what we’re actually looking for. This is making sure that you get to your destination safely.

Tom Temin Sure. And with respect to safety, there are provisions in the new agreement, according to the basic release that came out that said that now there is a greater say in the operations and safety concerns at individual airports. Tell us more about that one.

Hydrick Thomas Yes, now you have the right to go to what they call a federal safety director. Each airport has one. If you have a concern about the procedures on safety. You can have a sit down with them and discuss it and they investigate, look into it and then make changes through the headquarters.

Tom Temin So before that you did not have access to those to the Federal Safety directive.

Hydrick Thomas We had no say so in how the procedures actually was conducted. We just did what we were told to do.

Tom Temin Can you think of a particular case in which an officer might have had a better idea for improving safety, because every airport’s laid out differently?

Hydrick Thomas Yes. Like some time had come out of procedure. Okay. In the middle of the day, we have a new procedure. We want you to start sliding down the side of the leg or whatever. So, the officer went, okay, well, what am you training? You brought this into effect like instantly. And now we haven’t really been trained. So, then they stop, and they start training the workers. So, they’ve been really good across the country as far as they will go back and retrain and give everybody input on what you think it should be done?

Tom Temin Sure.

Hydrick Thomas Final decision made from headquarters.

Tom Temin Well, always. Right. That’s life in Washington, I see. Now, what is the status of the contract? Do you still have to have ratification or have the members voted on it?

Hydrick Thomas Okay, the members already voted. It was approved. And then goes to TSA for a head review to see if they see anything wrong with it. Then they send it back within a 30-day period they have to send it back. And then it goes into effect, I think 90 days after, which I think is a total of 120 days.

Tom Temin As a president of the AFGE local council 100. That’s all the TSOs.

Hydrick Thomas Yes.

Tom Temin Do you feel that you have access, and you can discuss things with TSA management?

Hydrick Thomas Yeah, I can go above. They gave me access to speak to the administrator himself. If I feel something is not being done as he directed, he sent out a guidance. And I get a report from the airport that it’s not being done exactly the way that they wanted to do it, for the safety of the flying public. I can set up a meeting with him. He could make it instantly. The meeting will happen right away. He wouldn’t me, oh Hydrick, we have to wait three weeks? You would just accept my call. We have to sit down and discuss what’s going on.

Tom Temin All right. And final question. What is what’s the duration of this contract?

Hydrick Thomas We have a seven-year contract. This is the first contract we had. The past one was called a limited contract with the administrator will determine what we can bargain on. Since, Mr. Bennie Thompson, who’s a congressman out of Mississippi, is our most powerful supporter on all rights and benefits and training for TSA, got us into this contract with the help of Mr. Mayorkas, the DHS secretary, President Eric Kelly out of Washington, that represents a total agency of 700,000 members. So, everybody got together and has got together and decided this is the way things should be done in this type of contract. They should have better help their employees with the pay, the pay was a major thing. I appreciate Mr. Mayorkas for that because he, you know, he stepped in quickly and finally we got the pay based on Congress approving it. And now people can actually afford to live a decent life and take care of their families.

Tom Temin All right, well, I know Everett and Benny, and if you have those guys on your side, you’ve got some pretty good wind in your sails.

Hydrick Thomas Yes, yes.

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