A TSA agent searches luggage at an airport.  Carolina K. Smith MD / Shutterstock.com

Whistleblower rights may soon be extended to TSA employees

The vast majority of feds are protected, at least in part, by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 and other federal laws.

These laws—though sometimes criticized as inadequate in practice—often provide legal safe harbor for employees who blow the whistle on workplace waste, fraud or abuse. Yet, to date, those who work for the Transportation Security Administration—which currently employs more than 54,000—have not enjoyed these protections. When TSA was created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks nearly two decades ago, the emphasis was on flexibility and speed, and hence this large subset of feds were placed on a different (often less kind to labor) system of salaries and workplace law.

Soon, this situation may finally change. This month, lawmakers in the House re-introduced the Rights for the Transportation Security Administration Workforce Act. This bill would extend federal workplace coverage found in these earlier, existing laws to TSA employees—bringing these key security workers the same kind of whistleblower protections as other feds.

The bill has numerous sponsors: Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Rosa DeLauro, (D-Ct.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.). A similar version passed the House last year, but died in the Senate.

Labor and advocacy organizations also back the bill. The nonprofit Government Accountability Project, for example, issued a statement in favor of passage, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic—which has left over 6,500 TSA employees infected and at least 15 dead, according to official agency statistics—adds urgency to this longstanding need.

“[We] owe it to the officers who serve on the front lines of our transportation systems and defend our country against threats to provide them with appropriate pay and protections,” Rep. Thompson said, quoted in the statement. “We also owe it to the flying public to continue to develop TSA into the professional, capable national security agency that Congress originally envisioned.”

Reader comments

Tue, Feb 23, 2021

A nice concept in theory. Those who blew the whistle on corrupt management at the Big Outfit in Bethesda were intimidated, lost promotion potential etc. Many times management listened to false rumors generated by other crooked managers. They cheat on their time cards, telework and annual leave. Often on the golf course or out shopping while on the dime of the government.

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