TSA Halts Private Security Applications At Our Nation’s Airports


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TSA Halts Private Security Applications At Our Nation’s Airports

By Daniel Baxter

February 1, 2011 - The decision to stop accepting new applications from private contractors to perform passenger and baggage screening work at the nation’s airports is an important and positive step for airline security, the leader of the union representing thousands of frontline federal employees charged with this key national security activity said on Monday.   

“This decision by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John Pistole is the right one—for the traveling public, and for TSA and its employees,” said President Colleen M. Kelley of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). “It keeps this important work in the hands of federal employees, where it belongs.”  

NTEU has been leading the effort against screening privatization rather than risk returning to the days less than a decade ago when low-paid, ill-trained employees of private contractors handled air passenger screening duties. TSA was created in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Last December, for example, President Kelley wrote to the Greater Orlando Airport Authority opposing the potential use of private screeners at Orlando International Airport. She warned that privatization risks the loss of expertise and professionalism, provides no financial benefits and could open up the airport to potential liability issues. NTEU also attended a hearing on the issue and voiced its opposition to the plan.  

“TSA Officers have served this country and the Orlando community well for the last nine years,” the NTEU leader wrote. “I ask that you listen to these dedicated employees in identifying methods to improve security for travelers.”  

Pistole said late Friday TSA would not be accepting new applications for participation by private companies in TSA’s Screening Partnership Program (SPP), under which airports can opt-out of using TSA employees. Although only a handful of airports have opted out, there has been a call by some members of Congress seeking to expand such privatization.  

NTEU is actively organizing TSA Officers at airports across the nation; a tentative date of March 9 through April19 has been set for a union representation election in TSA which would be run by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). The FLRA has ordered an election even though TSA employees do not yet have the right to collectively bargain a contract.


NTEU is leading the effort to secure such rights for them, working both with the administration and members of Congress on that issue. Pistole, who has the right to issue a directive granting collective bargaining rights, has been studying the matter. NTEU is the largest independent federal union, representing more than 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.

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