Transportation Security Officers Begin Vote on Union Representation

As Wisconsin legislators debated a proposal to strip Wisconsin’s state workers of their collective bargaining rights – a proposal that drew an intervention from the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, reminding them that long-established Church teaching defends the right of workers to organize in labor unions – the opposite was happening at the federal level.

In February Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief John Pistole issued a memorandum  permitting collective bargaining for TSA employees. Beginning today, over 40,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) will have the option to vote if they want to be represented by a union – and if so, by which union (two unions, the American Federation of Government Employees  and the National Treasury Employees Union, are on the ballot).

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Collective bargaining for federal employees is a different matter than it is in many states. Negotiations are generally limited to working conditions and personnel practices. TSOs say they want a union to combat arbitrary actions by supervisors, calling for a more transparent system of performance evaluations and a grievance procedure that will put an end to selective discipline.

Milwaukee’s Archbishop Listecki acknowledged that Wisconsin’s state employees "must work for the common good [and] make sacrifices when required,” but insisted nevertheless that "hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers." The Obama administration threaded a similar needle at the federal level by imposing a two-year wage freeze for federal employees while extending union rights for TSOs. Since Wisconsin state employee unions have offered to accept the governor’s economic demands in exchange for preserving collective bargaining rights, a compromise that meets Wisconsin's budget emergency while "preserving the legitimate rights of workers" is on the table there, if the legislators choose to take it up.

UPDATE 10 March 2010: Last night the Wisconsin Senate majority decisively rejected such a compromise by voting to strip Wisconsin's workers of most of their union rights.

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Vince Killoran
6 years 8 months ago
If federal government unions "don't do much" I wonder why AFGE represents over 600,000 dues-paying federal employees (in an "open shop" system).
Jim McCrea
6 years 8 months ago
It's a good thing that they won't be headquartered in Wisconsin or Idaho, or it would be off with their heads!
6 years 8 months ago
I've been in the (private sector) work force for nearly 35 years and have never been in a union.  I have all of my fingers, no bruises or lash marks, and was never forced to work more than an 8 hours a day. 

Unions' time has come and gone; they're primary role now is to strong-arm companies out of business with unsustainable demands, finance the livelihoods of the unions' staff, and contribute money to democratic political campaigns in order to maintain their power.

Public unions are the last stand, and that's only because government's can't move their operations off-shore. 
6 years 8 months ago
Hmm, so at least in some contexts "Catholic teaching" supports limits on the right to collective bargaining?  And unionizing some of the most unpopular federal employees ever is just what unions need to do to improve their image.

I use quotes above because I find it somewhat misleading to suggest that the WI Bishop's Statement shows that the bill is contra-Catholic teaching.  The statement is a repetition of broad principles that must be left to the application of particular circumstances.  It doesn't solve the dilemma anymore than the bishops' annual statements on voting "pro-life" solves the dilemma of whether John Kerry should receive communion. 
6 years 8 months ago
''As Wisconsin legislators debated a proposal to strip Wisconsin’s state workers of their collective bargaining rights ''


This is not correct.  There will be restrictions but not a blanket stripping of collective bargaining rights.  From what I understand police and fire fighters are not affected.  And there will still be some collective bargaining rights. So why make this statement which the author knows is not correct.  This post is so typical of what is put up on this site, slanted and shallow looks at current social problems.  Why not a discussion on how the above market salaries of the state employees are strapping efforts to help the poor and how the unions are gaming the system. Discuss real social justice instead of mouthing some pablum about an ill thought out proclamation of some bishops.  Couldn't do that. 


This ''civil debate'' in Wisconsin is all an argument over paying the union dues and nothing else. The one non negotiable thing is the ability to not pay dues to the unions.  That the unions can not allow.  Has anyone compared the behavior of the union protests with the Tea Party and who looks like responsible Americans.
Vince Killoran
6 years 8 months ago
Clayton nailed it: the bill will effectively destroy Wisc. public sector CB.  What the unionized workforce is left with is very, very little. It's no wonder the clear majority of Wisconsinites were against the GOP's action.

The old mandatory dues paying argument get trotted out time and again.  In a democratic election workers may decided to have a unionized workforce, and they then honor the majority decision. If a worker or group of workers don't like it they should call for a vote to boot out the union, like we do with regular elections.

I'm very glad to read of Michael's experiences.  I've worked in both union and non-unionzied workplaces. The unionized ones were more humane and with better pay, benefits, and more productive (for this last point see the 1990s Dunlop Commission Report). I know there are exceptions but study after study supports this view.

I'm especially pleased that you work an eight hour day.  You may send your appreciation to the Labor Movement that fought long and hard to secure that employment condition.
6 years 8 months ago
Ah, Vince, how I've missed your writing.

1. "What the unionized workforce is left with is very, very little. It's no wonder the clear majority of Wisconsinites were against the GOP's action."

One, the government workforce is left with the most protective civil service regime in the nation.  That's a hell of a lot more than most workers in this country have.  You ever try to get a government worker fired?  As far as the "majority of Wisconsinites", how can you say they were against the GOP's actions?  They elected Scott Walker a few months ago, and elected a GOP majority in both houses of the legislature!

2. "The old mandatory dues paying argument get trotted out time and again.  In a democratic election workers may decided to have a unionized workforce, and they then honor the majority decision. If a worker or group of workers don't like it they should call for a vote to boot out the union, like we do with regular elections."

So the rights of a majority can be trumped when its convenient?  Or do you think when millions of Californians vote to ban same sex marriage, the minority should just go along with it?  And what if these "elections" are tained with threats, coercive pressure and various other "ailments"?

3. "The unionized ones were more humane and with better pay, benefits, and more productive (for this last point see the 1990s Dunlop Commission Report). I know there are exceptions but study after study supports this view."

If this is so, then why did the Northeast and upper Midwest lose its manufacturing base, and why are the non-unionized workers in Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Toyota factories so happy in the booming Southeast?  Moreover, if they're such great places, why do they government bailouts to keep them afloat?



6 years 8 months ago
"In a democratic election workers may decided to have a unionized workforce, and they then honor the majority decision. If a worker or group of workers don't like it they should call for a vote to boot out the union, like we do with regular elections."

Just to solidify an earlier point, if this is how "regular" elections are supposed to work, then why shouldn't your argument apply to the minority of unionized government employees?  They lost the election; if they don't like it, wait till the next election and throw the bums out.  But don't thwart the constitutional process by having your buddies abscond from the state!  I mean if the majority wins, then the majority in this case has won - the GOP controls the legislature and Scott Walker won the election.  The minority can change that in due time, but for now, according to your argument, they should get back to work!

Am I missing something in your argument, or does democracy only work when the majority favors your opinion?
Vince Killoran
6 years 8 months ago
Jeff, your contributions to this site are treasured, but they are never-ending. Perhaps you might join me in writing less and reading more?

You've thrown a lot out there but I'll have another go at your dues-paying beef:

Under labor law, beginning with the Wagner Act, unions are regulated as semi-public institutions: they are expected to hold democratic elections etc. I don't know about you but when my candidates lose I can't just say, "Oh, well, I don't like the outcome so I shouldn't have to obey any laws passed by this legislative body." The people, to state the obvious, have spoken. Advocate for a new election, run for office again.

I wonder why the non-union members in so-called "open-shop" worksites never attempt to give back their higher wages and benefits they gain through the union contract.  I love it when they (and I've witnessed this) make full use of the grievance procedure.  Talk about free loaders! 

Okay, off to a conference for a few days. 
6 years 8 months ago
I write because my beloved Jesuits told me to speak up when I have something to say. I try to read a lot and to respond to things when I feel I have something to contribute.  I haven't posted in over a week and I don't respond to every item.

Of course when you fail to respond to any of the points that I've made, it helps me to write a lot less!  You only attack someone (I'm not sure who precisely) as free loaders?!?!
Vince Killoran
6 years 8 months ago
My Jesuit teachers made certain that what we had to say was well-reasoned and well-timed. They liked quality, not quantity.
 
We've both put a lot of stuff out there. I notice that you didn't respond to my last point either.  But, really, aren't we spinning in circles? I don't think you comments are fresh-and I've certainly made mine here many times.   

Bye for now. 

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