Thursday, November 16, 2006

ILO Calls On Bush Administration To Stop Violating Screeners' Right To Organize Unions

The International Labor Organization has found that the Bush administration has violated the fundamental rights of American workers to form unions by denying unionization rights to the 56,000 passenger screeners at U.S. airports. The screeners were denied the right to organize a union and bargain collectively in 2003 for "national security reasons." The Bush administration claimed that it needed create a nimble work force capable of responding to today's threats.

The ILO was ruling on a three-year old complaint by the American Federation of Government Employees.
The ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association, which considered the case, said it was "concerned that extension of the notion of national security concerns for persons who are clearly not making national policy that may affect security ... may impede unduly upon the rights of these federal employees."

The United States is a member of the ILO, which sets global labor standards, but there is no mechanism to enforce its decisions within any of its member countries.
That wasn't the only union-busting action the Bush administration took in the name of national security, according to the AFL-CIO Today:
The Bush administration has used the same national security argument in its bid to deny collective bargaining rights through new personnel rules to more than 700,000 U.S. Defense Department workers and 160,000 employees in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Federal courts have ruled against new personnel rules in both cases. Congress also has weighed in against the Defense Department’s so-called National Security Personnel System. But the Bush administration is appealing the Defense Department ruling in the suit brought by United DoD Workers Coalition made up of more than 30 unions that represent department workers.
Despite the Bush administration's orders, AFGE has been attempting to win bargaining rights for the screeners. One thousand screeners have signed cards expressing their desire to become members of a union. Despite the fact that they can't bargain, the union can represent them in disciplinary hearings, discrimination cases, and takes their case to the media.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and AFGE President John Gage issues a joint statement calling on the Bush administration to immediately grant collective bargaining and all other labor rights to TSA workers.
The AFL-CIO and AFGE join the international community in its recognition that national security and worker rights are not mutually exclusive. At a time when airport screeners need a voice on the job to highlight where improvements can be made in our national security, the Bush Administration continues to stifle dialogue. Today’s decision further calls into question the Administration’s policy of using national security to justify the denial of basic worker rights.

The decision by the ILO amplifies the growing voices heard around the country and the world that are calling on the Bush Administration to recognize internationally accepted workers’ rights standards.
TSA has no plans to change its policy:
Spokesman Darrin Kayser on Nov. 16 reiterated the department’s stance that collective bargaining would hurt TSA’s ability to make quick changes to respond to threats.

“Given the critical national security mission of our security officers, collective bargaining is not appropriate,” Kayser said.

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