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TSA workers contact union lawyers about firings

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 11:54 a.m. HST, Jun 14, 2011

At least half of the 36 airport screeners who were told last week that they will be fired for allegedly failing to adequately screen baggage for explosives at Honolulu Airport have contacted union attorneys for representation. 

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a written statement today that 18 Transportation Security Administration baggage screeners have met with union attorneys. "NTEU's role is to ensure that affected TSA employees are treated fairly," Kelley said. "The TSA officers have a right, under TSA rules, to review the evidence against them and respond to the allegations."

The 36 workers have until Friday to submit a response to the charges. The TSA then will take final action. If the federal agency proceeds with the firings, the workers have 30 days to appeal.

Two unions — NTEU and the American Federation of Government Employees — are vying to organize the nation's 43,000 TSA workers, including 750 in Hawaii. Balloting for exclusive bargaining rights will end June 21,

Some of Hawaii's TSA workers have been meeting AFGE attorneys, but an AFGE spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., could not provide the exact number this morning.

Kelley said because union attorneys were required to sign nondisclosure agreements before being given access to any TSA investigative reports or evidence, so "it is not prudent to comment on individual cases."

On Friday, when the TSA said it was issuing "proposed termination" notices to 36 workers and suspending 12 other workers, Kelley said union workers were under pressure from airlines and supervisors to speed up the baggage screening procedures.

The five TSA managers who were given layoff notices last week included former Honolulu Police Department Deputy Police Chief Glen Kajiyama, who has been federal security director in Hawaii since 2007, and former HPD Maj. William Gulledge, the assistant federal deputy director for screening in Hawaii. He joined TSA in 2003.

During the TSA's six-month investigation 100 of the 750 TSA employees who work in Honolulu were interviewed, agency officials said last week.

Allegations surfaced in December when two TSA employees reported that luggage was allowed to go on flights without being screened or checked for explosives. The alleged misconduct affected a "limited number" of flights daily during the last few months of 2010, TSA officials said. The TSA officers worked at Lobby 4 at Honolulu Airport, which services 12 airlines.

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