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Baggage screeners’ contract about to expire

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Dec 8, 2015
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The Transportation Security Administration agents scanning your bags at the airport may soon be working without a contract. They’re currently negotiating with the TSA, and they’ll have to stay on the job even if their contract expires Wednesday.

And because Congress sets the pay for TSA baggage screeners, the American Federation of Government Employees union and TSA are negotiating on things like uniforms.

Hydrick Thomas, one of the negotiators and the president of AFGE’s TSA council, said morale is at rock bottom, partly because messages to screeners get garbled as they make their way through layers of management.

“The deputy director is having meetings with the deputies,” he said. “The deputies have meetings with the managers. The managers have meetings with the supervisors.”

The TSA, which didn’t get back to us in time for comment, is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Morale across DHS is low. Paul Light, who teaches public service at New York University, said the problem is the way DHS was created, after the 9-11 attacks when 22 federal agencies were mushed together.

“This is a merger that has failed,” he told me. “It’s not unlike the Compaq-Hewlett Packard merger. And sometimes the way you deal with this kind of merger failure is to break it up.”

Light says that would be one way to improve morale.

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