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New TSA Uniforms Trigger a Rash of Complaints

Peter Winch, an AFGE national organizer who helped survey TSA employees about the uniforms, estimated that between 200 and 300 workers complained about the new uniforms. "We've heard it from a number of airports, so we feel it represents a widespread problem," he added. Employees at airports in Baltimore, St. Louis, Tampa, San Francisco, Oakland and Fort Lauderdale are among those reporting problems, according to the union.

The reactions reported by TSA employees "are typical with formaldehyde in products," said Rodriguez.

The new uniforms began being distributed early last year and were in use nationwide at 450 airports by 50,000 officers by September, according to White.

All-cotton uniforms have been provided to 50 officers to replace the new uniforms. By comparison, in the six years the white uniforms were in use, 71 officers requested all-cotton alternatives, he said.

AFGE, which represents tens of thousands of Department of Homeland Security employees, sent a letter to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley in late December demanding that the complaints be looked into as a possible violations of Department of Labor regulations.

White said TSA first became aware of the issue several months ago, "long before AFGE contacted us."

The agency "immediately worked with VF Solutions to find out what was going on," White added. TSA is working with Labor to conduct an independent government assessment of the VF Solution testing, he said.

White said the new uniforms were designed with input from TSA employees and are intended to present a more professional look, as well as provide better wear than the old ones. "We're very proud of the new uniforms," said White. "We've heard a very strong reaction from passengers. They like the look. It looks much more professional."

Unlike the old uniforms, White added, the new ones come with "a real gold badge."

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