By Felicia Sonmez
Tuesday, February 15, 2011; 5:27 PM
The Senate on Tuesday rejected an amendment that would have prevented Transportation Security Adminstration employees from unionizing, handing a victory to Democrats and labor groups.
The amendment, which had been sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and was attached to a Federal Aviation Authority funding bill, was defeated on a straight party-line vote, with all 47 Republicans voting in favor and all 51 Democrats present voting against the measure. Two Democrats, Sens. John Kerry (Mass.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), did not vote.
The measure would have excluded more than 40,000 TSA workers from collective bargaining. Wicker and other supporters of the amendment had argued that allowing TSA employees to unionize could endanger national security by forcing the agency to negotiate with unions before being allowed to move screeners or change its methods.
Opponents of the amendment criticized it as "irresponsible" and urged that granting workers collective bargaining rights would improve their morale and, in turn, national security.
Last November, the Federal Labor Relations Authority announced that TSA personnel would be allowed to vote on whether to have union representation. Those votes are scheduled to take place this spring, from March 9 to April 19.
Earlier this month, TSA administrator John Pistole decided to allow limited collective bargaining rights for transportation security officers on issues not related to national security.