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"Analysis: The Senate Sept. 11 Reform Bill"
- From: Stephen Irwin <stepheni@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2007 11:18:14 -1000
Friday, February 16, 2007
Analysis: The Senate Sept. 11 Reform Bill
The New York (NY) Post Chronicle
The Senate version of legislation implementing the remaining
recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, like its House counterpart
passed earlier this year, has a provision expanding union rights for
airport security screeners.
The bill, which was marked up and reported out Thursday by the Senate
Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, also mandates a
pilot project that would allow new secure driver's licenses to be used
instead of passports at the Canadian border, but it does not contain
some of the more radical cargo and port security measures in the House
Language added to the bill in an amendment proposed by the committee's
chairman, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., repeals a footnote in the 2001
law setting up the Transportation Security Administration or TSA. The
footnote gave the agency's director wide discretion to decide issues of
union and other labor rights for the thousands of passenger and baggage
screeners it employs.
The amendment passed on a party-line vote, and the entire bill,
designated S4, the Improving America's Security Act, was voted out
unanimously with one abstention by the committee.
Charity Wilson, a congressional lobbyist for the American Federation of
Government employees, told United Press International that the labor
rights language, if passed into law, would ensure that TSA screeners had
the same collective bargaining and other union rights, and the same
whistleblower protections, as other civil servants.
The TSA "will no longer be able to pick and choose which labor laws
apply to its workers," said Wilson, and the screeners would be entitled
to unionize like other federal employees.
She added it was "no coincidence" that TSA screeners, effectively denied
union representation for more than five years, have one of the highest
rates of complaints about workplace discrimination of any federal
workers -- an attrition rate more than ten times that of the U.S.
government as a whole -- and one of the highest injury rates of any job
classification tracked by the federal Occupational Safety and Health
Although TSA officials say they have brought down the agency's annual
staff attrition rates to 23 percent from more than 30 percent last
summer, the rate for all federal employees is only 2.2 percent, and
labor unions say some airports turnover more than half their TSA staff
An amendment proposed by Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., mandates the
Department of Homeland Security to set up a pilot program with at least
one state, under which machine-readable, tamper-proof driver's licenses
could be used at the Canadian border -- instead of a U.S. passport or
special passport card -- when more secure documents become required at
all U.S. borders under the so-called Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
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