Mr. CARDIN: Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of the nomination of John S. Pistole to be Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and to talk about collective bargaining for TSA employees.
The TSA has been without a Senate confirmed leader for a year and a half, and during the last five months, we have experienced two major transportation security incidents: the unsuccessful December 25
th bombing of Northwest flight 253, and the near escape of the failed Times Square bomber.
I welcome the President’s nomination of a career FBI official with extensive counterterrorism experience, FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole, to head the TSA, and I look forward to the Senate’s swift confirmation of Mr. Pistole for this critical position.
During the confirmation hearings for Mr. Pistole, the issue of collective bargaining for TSA employees was raised. Mr. Pistole stated he is going to study the issue, gather all the information he can from stakeholders, and make a recommendation to Secretary Napolitano.
Some members of Congress, however, are strongly opposed to collective bargaining for TSA employees. Their opposition is grounded in the concern that we need to be able to adapt quickly and effectively to specific aviation threats. The underlying premise of this argument is that we must choose between protecting the nation from threats to aviation and collective bargaining.
This choice, however, is a false choice, because national security, and what I call “smart collective bargaining,” are not mutually exclusive. Under a “smart” collective bargaining agreement, if exigent circumstances and a true emergency were to exist, TSA would be fully capable of deploying assets without there being any negative impact from the collective bargaining agreement. At his confirmation hearing, Mr. Pistole stated that “we have to be able to surge resources at any time … not only nationwide but worldwide.” A “smart” collective bargaining agreement would enable us to do exactly that.
Moreover, a “smart” collective bargaining agreement would enhance national security because it would enable TSA to recruit and retain better employees. Our nation’s history with labor unions clearly teaches us that collective bargaining boosts morale, it allows employees to have a voice in their workplace, and it allows them to increase stability and professionalism. On the other hand, poor workforce management can lead directly to high attrition rates, job dissatisfaction and increased costs, which leads to gaps in aviation security. There have been reports that the TSA has low worker morale, which can undermine the agency’s mission and our national security.
The fact of the matter is that DHS’ Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) Officers, some of whom work at the same airports as TSA employees, as well as employees of DHS’ Federal Protective Service, and the Capitol Police, all operate under collective bargaining agreements. Are members of the flying public less safe because the CPB officers, who work side-by-side with TSA employees, work under a collective bargaining agreement? Are the members of Congress less safe because the Capitol police work under a collective bargaining agreement?
Mr. President, as the late Senator Kennedy noted in August 2009 when he cosponsored a collective bargaining rights bill for public safety officers, tomorrow morning, thousands of state and local public safety officers, police officers and fire fighters will wake up and go to work to protect us. They will put their lives on the line responding to emergencies, policing our neighborhoods, and protecting us in Maryland and in communities all across this nation. These dedicated public servants will patrol our streets and run into burning buildings to keep us safe. And no one believes for a moment that we are less safe because they have secured collective bargaining rights.
And if opponents of collective bargaining for TSA employees want to invoke “9/11” to support their views, they will soon discover that the legacy of 9/11 shows very clearly that national security will not be compromised by collective bargaining. Before 9/11, New York Port Authority police officers worked eight hour days, four days on and two days off. By the end of the day on 9/11, however, vacations and personal time were cancelled and workers were switched to twelve hour tours, seven days a week. Indeed, schedules did not return to normal for three years. The union did not file a grievance and everyone recognized that it was a real crisis.
And if there is any doubt about whether “smart” collective bargaining will enhance our ability to recruit and retain the best TSA employees to protect us, all we need to do is to think about Donnie McIntyre, a Port Authority police officer, one of the many self-less heroes who were killed on 9/11, and these memorable words written in the third stanza of “America the Beautiful” by Katherine Lee Bates. Bates wrote:
“O beautiful, for heroes proved, in liberating strife. Who more than self, their country loved, and mercy more than life.”
We learned about the story of Donnie McIntyre from his partner, Paul Nunziato, Vice President of the N.Y. Port Authority Police Benevolent Association. Mr. Nunziato testified before the Congress in June of 2007 regarding the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007, a bill almost identical to the amendment offered by Senator Reid. Donnie was one of 37 Port Authority Police officers who lost their lives on 9/11 in the World Trade Center evacuation effort. He was married with two young children and his wife Jeannie was pregnant with their 3
rd child when he died on 9/11.
While nothing will make up for the loss of Donnie to his family, Jeannie does not have to worry about paying bills or providing healthcare for her children, largely because of benefits the union negotiated for its members.
“Smart” collective bargaining for TSA employees will not endanger the nation’s security – it will make us more safe. I urge my colleagues to support “smart” collective bargaining for TSA employees. It will improve our ability to recruit and retain the best employees like Donnie McIntyre and the countless other American heroes who work every day to protect us and keep us safe under collective bargaining agreements.
Moreover, “smart” collective bargaining for TSA employees will increase stability and professionalism in the TSA workplace, and it will dramatically reduce attrition rates, job dissatisfaction and increased costs, which will enhance transportation security.
I also urge my colleagues to swiftly confirm John S. Pistole.