During the closing days and weeks of the 2008 presidential race, Barack Obama wrote a series of letters to John Gage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees, to explain his priorities for the federal workforce if he becomes President of the United States. Then-candidate Obama dedicated one letter to DHS and another specifically to the TSA.
In his letter to Gage about DHS, Obama expressed concerns about DHS workforce policies. The lack of collective bargaining and the unintended consequences of “pay-for-performance” on morale and results served as the core of the letter. Obama intends to restore collective bargaining. He wrote that he will “ensure that each nominee [in an Obama-Biden Administration] has a clear understanding of the labor-management collective bargaining process and my commitment to assuring its fairness. The same goes for my appointments to the Federal Labor Relations Authority and the Federal Services Impasses Panel.”
He stressed that DHS workers should be rewarded for high quality work, but that the Bush Administration’s “failure to fund the initiative [“pay-for-performance” system] guaranteed that rewarding one employee would be at the expense of another. This is unfair and serves to reduce morale, rather than improve it,” Obama wrote.
In a separate letter directed specifically at the TSA, Obama cited issues raised by Transportation Security Officers (TSO) about the need for collective bargaining rights. “Advocating for TSOs to receive collective bargaining rights and workplace protections will be a priority for my administration,” Obama wrote to Gage in late October.
That other DHS officers serving as Border Patrol Agents, Federal Protective Officers, or Capitol Police, for example, all have collective bargaining rights makes this inequity a top workforce priority for Obama. Citing high attrition rates among the TSO workforce, Obama intends to re-examine the Performance Accountability and Standards System (PASS) for TSOs to “determine whether it meets minimum standards of fairness, transparency, and accountability.” If it does not, expect the Obama-Biden Administration to replace the PASS system with the General Schedule wage system used by the rest of the federal government, including other DHS agencies.
This afternoon, I have the opportunity to meet with TSA Administrator Kip Hawley and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. I hope to ask them about these plans, as well as current initiatives like Secure Flight.