tv Union Heads Testify on Transportation Security CSPAN December 6, 2021 1:55pm-3:08pm EST
get c-span on the go. watch the day's biggest political events live or on demand any time, anywhere on our new mobile video app. c-span now. access top highlights, listen to c-span radio, and discover new podcasts all for free. download c-span now today. testified on transportation security before a house homeland security subcommittee. they discussed the increased number of violent incidents occurring on airlines and the november # 2nd deadline for all federal employees to receive the covid-19 vaccine. >> the subcommittee on transportation and maritime security will come to order. the subcommittee is meeting to receive testimony at today's hearing entitled "on the front lines in turbulent times: workforce perspectives on this date of transportation security." without objection, the chair has
authorized to declare the subcommittee in recess at any point. good afternoon. i'd like to thank our witnesses for their willingness to appear before us today as we look ahead to what promises to be a very busy holiday season, travel season. the safety of front line workers and passengers is paramount, particularly as we continue to battle a pandemic that has turned many of our usual travel customs and norms on their head. while this is not the first year that our country will celebrate the holidays with covid-19 in our midst, it is heartening that almost 60% of the population is fully vaccinated against this virus. while we still have a ways to go, strong protections on the worst effects of the virus means more families can safely reunite during this special time of the year. last monday was the deadline for federal employees including
transportation security officers to receive their last shot of a two-dose vaccine regimen or a single dose in the case of johnson & johnson vaccine to meet the november 22nd deadline to be fully vaccinated per president biden's recent executive order. in addition, many major airlines have required their employees to receive their shots ahead of the january 4th deadline for federal contractors. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses about how vaccination efforts are progressing among their memberships and the partnerships between employees and employers that these efforts are born. in addition to covid-19, there is another scourge that continues to plague our air travel, and that's unruly passengers. this topic is not new to this subcommittee. in july we discussed how this bad behavior is affecting tsos and other front line workers who are simply doing their jobs to
keep the traveling public safe. and, yet, the number of these incidents continues to climb. far too many are related to passengers who refuse to abide by the federal requirement to wear masks in transportation settings. a requirement that is critical to reducing viral transmission and getting this pandemic under control. last month i joined the chairman of the full committee chairman thompson in writing to tsa to urge the agency to pursue civil penalties for offenders more aggressively following reports. the tsa had only issued fines against ten people. recent reports tell us that tsa has now assessed $85,990 in fines against 190 individuals. while this is indeed an improvement, the consequences of assaulting tsos, flight
attendants, or ground-based workers should be made explicitly clear, and violators must be held accountable without exception. there are many other colleagues facing our front line workers -- i'm sorry, there are many other challenges that are facing our front line workers that are ripe for discussion today, as well as proposed solutions that i hope will present common ground for members of this subcommittee. s a chairwoman, i now recognize the ranking member of this subcommittee, the gentleman from florida, mr. gimenez, for his opening statement. thank you, chairwoman for holding this hearing today. as we have seen during covid-19 pandemic, the u.s. transportation system is key to our economy. it truly powers our way of life
where finally, after 18 difficult months, seeing a resurgence of travel in our travel industry. my home city of miami is one of the top destinations for travelers in our airports has already seen domestic leisure travel at prepandemic levels. international bookings are up from 50% from 2019 but they're also resurging. and they are projected to increase substantially with the recent openings of international flights in and out of miami. as we enter the busy holiday travel season, we must ensure the safety and security of the transportation workforce and the traveling public. i'm concerned that tsa is not adequately staffed to handle the rise in travelers that we will see in airports across the country over the next few weeks. in addition, the administration's mandate that all federal employees be fully vaccinated for covid-19 by next week, november 22nd, could contribute to a lack of staffing at airports. the tsa workforce has shown
their dedication to our nation day in and day out, and now they're being threatened with being disciplined or even losing their jobs. tsa employees should have the right to choose if and when they will receive the vaccine based on their personal health considerations and their own time line, not from a government mandate. tsa has not said what percentage of its employees provided proof of their covid-19 vaccinations. what is tsa's plan here? are they going to discipline or even fire employees who are not fully vaccinated? is this going to happen before the holidays? i don't understand how tsa can staff airport checkpoints over the holidays and beyond without these valuable and skilled front line employees. i'm also concerned that there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of violent and disruptive passengers in surface transportation systems at our airports and in flight. these incidents need to stop, and i want to hear from our witnesses on how tsa and the
federal air marshals can play an increased role in transportation security. i look forward to learning from the witnesses today and what they're hearing from their memberships on these important issues. >> transportation workers are crucial to the country's movement of goods, services, and people. our economy cannot rebuild without them. madam chairwoman, i yield back, and thank you. >> i thank the ranking member. now i'd like to recognize the chairman of the full committee, the gentleman from mississippi, mr. thompson, for an opening statement. >> thank you very much, chairwoman watson-coleman. i thank our witnesses for joining us today. as we prepare for the holidays and the busy travel season here, we must ensure that our transportation security infrastructure is capable of handling the challenge we face. with travel volume increasing at u.s. airports and transit sites around the country, we've seen a
rise in incidents involving unruly passengers and assaults against transportation workers. further complicating matters, tsa's staff and issues and lack of enforcement in penalties imposed on those who disregard the law, like the federal mask mandate. this year alone, the federal aviation administration has reported over 5,100 unruly passenger incidents, of which over 3,700 are mask related. these numbers are not -- do not account for the overwhelming number of incidents happening at ground transit sites around the country. last month, as you've already heard, subcommittee chairwoman watson-coleman and myself wrote the tsa administrator to encourage tsa to increase the penalties it imposes on
offenders and publicize its effort. robust enforcement is key to deterring this unacceptable behavior. i'm a firm believer that having a strong transportation workforce is an essential component to having a strong national security infrastructure. these essential workers are not only facing attacks from unruly passengers, but the daily risk of being infected by the covid-19 virus while performing their duties. to date, over 11,000 tsa employees have tested positive for covid-19, and, tragically, at least 32 have died. yet, longstanding issues like the lack of fair pay continues to plague the agency's workforce with travel volumes steadily rising. the biden administration has shown encouraging signs of support for workers' rights. however, we still have a way to
go in terms of providing these rights and improving working conditions. tsa continues to rank at or near the bottom in the annual best places to work survey, while low morale contributing to high turnover at the agency. if tsa cannot hire and retain the highly skilled, dedicated workforce it needs, it will struggle to keep up with increasing passenger volume and ultimately place our transportation systems at risk. all these factors make this hearing timely. i'm especially eager to hear from our witnesses who have a unique perspective and insight into these issues and other impacting transportation workers. i'd like to thank our front line workers and their families for their dedication and sacrifice during these times. i'd also like to thank chairwoman watson-coleman and the transportation of maritime
security subcommittee members for bringing these issues to the forefront. thank you again to our witnesses. i appreciate your efforts to protect the traveling public. and i look forward to your testimony. >> thank you, mr. chairman. other members of the subcommittee are reminded that under the committee rules, opening statements may be submitted for the record. members are also reminded that the committee will operate according to the guidelines laid out by the chairman and the ranking member of the full committee in their february 3rd colloquy regarding remote procedures. i will now welcome our panel of witnesses. our first witness is dr. everett kelley, national president of the american federation of government employees. dr. kelley has been the national president of afdge since february of last year and an afge member of 40 years.
our second witness is nasara nelson, international president of association of flight attendants. she started her career as a flight attend for united airlines in 1996 and rose to the role of international president in 2014. our third witness is mr. john samuelsen, international president of the transit workers union, twu. he is a former track worker with new york city transit and has served as the international president of twu since 2017. our fourth witness is mr. john casaretti, president of the air marshals association. he is a former senior federal air marshal, and he has served as president of the ama since its formation in 2011. i want to thank all the witnesses today for their participation. i look forward to hearing your
testimony. without objection, the witnesses' full statements will be inserted in the record. i am now asking each witness to summarize their statement for five minutes, beginning with dr. kelley. you need to unmute, dr. kelley. >> thank you so much. can you hear me now? okay, thank you. chairwoman watson-coleman, ranking member gimenez, ranking member thompson, on behalf of the american federation government employees, i thank you for the opportunity to testify today. among the 700,000 federal employees we represent, we count approximately 45,000 transportation security officers at tsa who protect the flying public. today's topic is timely, as we all prepare for the holiday season and brace ourselves
against potential turbulence, literal and otherwise, although we can all rejoice in the fact that the declining covid infections mean there will be an increase in the volume of passengers at airports this holiday season. that increase will bring many challenges to airports, airlines and to tsa. for many travelers this season will be the first trip since the pandemic began, and they may be a little nervous, too. all of us worry about the possibility of resurgence of covid and another new variant. and we almost are certain that there will be mechanical delays to challenge us. i won't hold you in suspense. i want to skip right to the conclusion. we do not have control over every potential source of tension affecting travel during the holiday season. but there are some things that we can do to minimize problems. let's focus on those things.
first of all, tsa must staff adequately and appropriately and ensure personnel, tsos, and supervisors are well trained in handling abuse and violence by passengers at the checkpoint. tsos need to know that supervisors have their back when passengers engage in abusive behavior. tsa must adopt a zero-tolerance policy for abuse directed at its workforce. secondly, the greatest source of fear and anxiety for tsos and all federal employees at the end of the year is the threat of another government shutdown. year after year, tsos look ahead to the holiday season with a certain amount of dread at the prospect of another shutdown, wondering whether they will be able to afford their rent, utilities or even groceries, let alone christmas presents and christmas dinner. i urge congress to pass not just a continuing resolution with the
current one expiring on bye. -- on december 3rd but to enact full year funding. has strongly urged all our members to get the covid vaccine, there are some who have not done so. now this doesn't have to be an added burden to the holiday travel. has called upon president biden to allow the vaccine deadline for federal employees with this deadline for federal contractors who work alongside them. extending the deadline until january the 4th will provide
consistency and will also provide fairness. i make this point in my testimony that none of the turbulence and the committee is examining today is new to the tso workforce. they have endured violence and abuse, government shutdown, illnesses and harassment and intimidation at the hand of their supervisors. all of this for the lowest pay in the federal service. so my final recommendation is that congress get on with passing the legislation because this is going to be important to all of us, right? this legislation committee is already reported favorably the right for the tso workforce act and counterparts to do the same. tso protect the flying public and keep our skies safe. they show us and do their job, in the most trying of circumstances and have done so time and time again over the 20 years tsa has been in operation. we count on tsos to do an
essential job for our security. now it's time for the tsos to count on support for the government to provide them a safe, respectful, and a fully funded place to work. so thank you for having me to testify today. i'll be happy to answer any questions that you might have. >> wow, great timing. thank you, dr. kelley. i'd now like to recognize ms. nelson. >> thank you chair watson-coleman, ranking member gimenez, chair thompson, and ranking member katko, for convening this hearing on the current presence of the aviation security and the people on the front lines who are sustaining the longest turbulent times in our history. i'm a 25-year-old flight attendant and president of our union, representing flight attendants in 17 airlines across the country as well as agents
and ground service workers with our partner union, communication workers of america. while this is a relatively small group of people compared with the. these individuals are creating a horrible experience for everyone, at worst they are putting the safety and security of everyone traveling at risk. the constant refusal to comply with safety instructions is often coupled with swearing and racist, sexist, homophobic language with the threat of violence or outright physical attack. i am disturbed to report some flight attendants have been so traumatized by these attacks, they are hesitant to leave their hotel, their homes or sometimes even the aircraft when law enforcement has failed to detain violent or threatening offenders. this has the affect of making workers hesitant to go back to work. dealing with a disruptive passenger used to be a rare
event and a really bad day at work. but today flight attendants and other aviation workers are aware before every trip, every shift, and our families are too that when we put on our uniforms we are donning a target for harass and violence. we cannot accept this as the new normal. flight attendants are begging, make it stop. aviation is about bringing people together, not tearing them apart. it's the backbone of our economy and an expression of freedom. but this committee also knows the threats that still exist for commercial aviation and efforts to use it as a weapon against our country or peace around the world. failing to put a check on the rise in disturbances on the plane puts us in jeopardy of missing cues of the coordinated attack, enhance tools to those who wish to do us harm. we can take steps to disrupt these disturbing trends and maintain aviation security. we recommend these critical steps. one, doj must act with urgency to conduct criminal prosecution. people need to understand consequences are severe and
real. consistent communication and enforcement of masks and alcohol policies in the airport. ban to-go alcohol in airport and in airport alcohol delivery. increase staffing at the gate and on planes. enlist everyone in the aviation ecosystem in efforts to communicate policies and identify or report potential disruptions to keep problems on the ground. create a centralized list of violators. relevant house and senate committees should work with urgency to enact legislation that expands fbi concurrent jurisdiction in order to ensure enforcement crimes when the airplane door is open. and making crew self-defense training mandatory overseen by tsa.
in 2004 after the 9/11 commission recognized the need for this training, we testified before this committee, stating on three separate occasions congress has specifically acknowledged the need for this training. the air transportation security act, the homeland security act, and the 2003 faa reauthorization bill. yet, these many attempts to provide flight attendants with meaningful security training have not been successful, end quote. let's finally make this training accessible as a tool for flight attendants who serve our nation as aviation's last line of defense. thank you again so much for this hearing and attention on this critical issue. and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, ms. nelson. i now recognize mr. samuelsen. >> good morning, and thank you chairwoman coleman and ranking member gimenez and chairman thompson for the opportunity to testify today and for recognizing the need of workforce perspectives when addressing security of our entire transport systems. i'm here on behalf of more than
150,000 members of the transport workers union of america working in transit, air, railroads, and other industries. our members include bus operators, flight attendants, airport gate agents, amtrak service workers, and many other classes of transportation. across airlines, transit, and railroads, front line workers overwhelmingly believe that the number one security threat in our transport systems today is physical assault in the performance of their do you tellize. the faa has reported more than 5,000 unruly passenger incidents since the beginning of the year. a 2,000% increase over the previous year. these assaults have received most of the media attention, assaults against transit and amtrak workers are also on the rise. in new york city alone, there have been nearly 2,000 assaults on transit workers this year, and amtrak workers have seen assaults rise by 25% over a period of time when ridership
dropped by 60%. these numbers are terrifying, but the reality for front line workers is so much worse than statistics. a southwest airlines gate agent was pelted with objects before a passenger violently pulled her hair and threw her to the ground so hard that she was hospitalized with a spine injury. and this last weekend a southwest gate agent was hit in the head by a passenger sending her to the hospital. a tw jet blue flight attendant was thrown to the ground and choked after a passenger attempted to storm the cockpit. in miami a bus operator was sent to the hospital after his bus broke down because an irate passenger punched him and smashed his head repeatedly on the side of a bus. in philly, a security camera caught a group of people knocking a station agent to the ground and broke several of his ribs with repeated punches and kicks. we are seeing a full moon atmosphere across all of our
transit systems where angry and frustrated passengers feel entitled to assault workers just because they are the face of the companies they work for. there are many factors contributing to this atmosphere, and none of them have been created by the workers who are in harm's way. most assaults happen at flash points where workers are tasked with enforcing rules and practices. these include safety protocols such as carry-on luggage limitations and masking requirements, revenue collection points like bus fare boxes and operational problems such as when flights are canceled. when these flash points arise, passengers who are already angry or frustrated take that anger out on the workers. on airlines and at transit agencies, a major contributing factor to this anger has been business mismanagement and incompetence that has led to major understaffing. airlines collectively employee nearly 50,000 fewer workers today than before the start of
the pandemic. this intentional choice to reduce head count has created a less resilient air system that is much more prone to major cancelations and long delays due to predictable operational issues such as bad weather. similarly, transit agencies who have done almost no hiring since the start of the pandemic now find themselves reducing service due to a self-inflicted shortage of bus operators and train operators, train crews, passengers and riders who are stressed about their commutes are entering our transport systems already upset because of all these shortcomings. historically, there have been very few consequences for assaulting transportation workers. of the more than 5,000 assaults reported to the faa, only 37 were recommended for criminal prosecution. while our members appreciate the faa's recent efforts to increase findings for assailants, there is no question that more needs to be done to discourage this kind of horrific behavior.
combating assaults on transport workers requires a holistic approach involving federal and local authorities as well as transportation employers. the most effective deterrent that we have seen is the presence of uniformed law enforcement officers in the systems where assaults are happening. for example, redeploying police from the fare box in new york city reduced the number of assaults by more than 60%. i list several urgently needed policy changes like this in my written testimony. and i hope this committee can take a leadership role to implement these ideas. thank you, again, and i look forward to your questions. >> incredible timing, mr. samuelsen. thank you. mr. casaretti? >> good afternoon, chairwoman watson-coleman, ranking member gimenez, ranking member katko.
the insights i chair with the committee today are the insights of a flying federal air marshal. the insights are supported by my personal experiences and observations gained throughout 26 years of working in the transportation domain, as well as my ten years of union leadership. most significantly, these insights are tempered by my experience as a 9/11 first responder and recovery worker and by my service and sincere desire to see the tsa succeed in its vital mission. our success ensures that the lives lost that september morning are not in vain. i appreciate the opportunity to speak, and i hope that this statement faithfully represents the perspectives of the air marshals. the perspective of the air marshal association is that security strategy historically utilized -- our mission must be redefined. the covid-19 pandemic starkly illuminated the inherent efficiencies in the scope of our mission. since our agency lacked any meaningful enforcement or
investigatory role outside of an aircraft cabin, the service was essentially sidelined from contributing to the dhs mission effectively. while other law enforcement agencies adapted, it was left flat-footed. a significant portion of our workforce sat idle for months because there was no role to play. collaborating effectively with our agencies would've curtailed this inactivity throughout the pandemic. over the past decade, the ama has engaged congress, stakeholders, and tsa leadership on ways to better position our work force to meet the constantly evolving threat from. 2018 to 2021, the ama created a future working group. i won't belabor this committee on rehashing all the things that we've given to you individually, but suffice to say i encourage you all to review our proposals for changing the agency and making a more effective federal
air marshal service. right now we have a shrinking workforce. as travel resumes to prepandemic levels, we must have enough trained federal air marshals to cover the workload. however, many retirements have taken place. a significant number of fams entered service in 2002. most of these agents indicate they will retire as soon as they are eligible. at a time when passenger unrest are on the rise, we are concerned that the fam service will be shrinking at an alarming rate. many times the aviation security fee redirected to the general fund in 2014 be used only for transportation security purposes. recovering the $3 billion in projected fees for 2022 and 2023 alone would easily cover the hiring of fams to replace current and projected losses and fund the buildout of new law enforcement sections to export
expanding fam roles. the fees could also allow to hire more tsos. the ama also recommends that crew members' self-defense training be integrated. it is difficult and often impractical for crew members to come to a fam field office to receive instruction. as a result, only a small fraction of flight crews have received this valuable block of training, and most have only received it once. with in-flight violence on the rise, basic self-defense, flight crews should be an agency priority. the retirement cliff that we are facing is having a negative impact on workforce morale. many are discouraged that we are losing a wealth of knowledge and those retiring came from other agencies and have a wealth of diversified experience. this problem can be resolved by ensuring the fam service hires at least 5% of its workforce each year and involves the fam duties. many have expressed anxiety over
another government shutdown and disruption in pay. members had to be assisted with bill payment. i urge this committee to do everything in its power to ensure the government employees can honor their obligations on time. some fams are also concerned with vaccine requirement deadlines and the ama supports the suggestion to move back the compliance deadline to january 4th. a significant number of fams contracted covid in the performance of their duties over the past 20 months. and those that survive now face the potential loss of their livelihoods due to this mandate. it's an honor to represent this committee. thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you very much, mr. casaretti.
thank you for all the witnesses for adhering to the time frame, and thank you for the important information you have shared with us today. i'll now recognize members for questions they may wish to ask the witnesses. i will recognize members in order of seniority between the majority and minority. leave your cameras on so they are visible to the chair with one exception that both the minority and majority have agreed to. i will remind each member that he or she will have five minutes to question the witnesses. and i will now recognize myself for five minutes last month, chairman. we did so because of the frustratingly low number and
amount of penalties on disruptive passengers. and we recognize there has been some improvement. but strong reinforcement is still needed to send a clear warning signal to would-be offenders of this behavior will be met with strong consequences. dr. kelley, in your opinion, has tsa been aggressive enough about pursuing violators of the mask mandate? and what is preventing tsa from being more aggressive? >> i think that, you know, to set those mandates. because it is my true belief that there should be a zero tolerance as it relates to abuse of the tsos that's working to ensure the public safety. >> thank you. ms. nelson, do you believe that tsa in concert with faa and others were widely publicize the
outcomes to demonstrate accountability and serve as a warning to potential offender? >> chair watson-coleman, yes, absolutely. faa has done a wonderful job of announcing the fines that they have levied against passengers. we want to see more of that in the airports and from tsa. it is very difficult when passengers acknowledge that they must wear a mask at the point of ticket sale and at the point of check-in. and that it is not enforced in the airport sends a wrong message. and we cannot call for help in a metal tube. it is critically important that tsa have an enforcement procedure and also be publishing those fines against people who are not complying. >> thank you, ms. nelson. as we have all seen in the news reports, there has been an explosion of violence against tsos, flight attendants, and other transportation workers in recent months. tsa restarted its self-defense
training course for flight crew in july, which is currently voluntary for flight attendants to take. while i'm sure no flight attendant ever wants to have to employ the tactics they learn in this class against the passenger, sadly this training feels more and more essential with each news story that comes out. ms. nelson, you have previously voiced your support for making this training mandatory and recurring. could you please tell the subcommittee while you believe these elements are needed. >> i have taken this training and we worked hard to get this training in place after 9/11. it was supposed to be mandatory and then was turned to a voluntary program. what that means is that flight attendants have to find time on their days off. it is very difficult they have to do that at their own cost to be able to attend. and they don't have the repetitive training that's necessary in order to respond on board. we don't have warning for this. this has to be an immediate reaction and that only comes
with repetitive training. this must be mandatory and recurring training each year. >> thank you. given that this course is currently voluntary, do you know of any airlines that provide paid duty time to their employees to attend? >> not one airline. >> thank you. mr. casaretti, in your testimony, you mentioned that a variety of challenges have increased the strain on air marshals' mental health over the years. as we know the covid-19 pandemic has added another layer entirely to their mental. and for that matter their physical health. the well-being of our federal air marshals has always been a priority of mine, and i will continue to work with you and your colleagues to find ways that congress can be supportive of your members. so my question for you is has the pandemic compounded existing challenges air marshals mental health, and what recommendations do you have, does the ama have to address those challenges both old and new? >> thank you for the question, chair watson-coleman.
the pandemic has exacerbated a lot of the challenges facing the federal air marshals. tsa is good about trying to do more with less. we've seen this recurring pattern over the years with the air marshals, we have 20-year employees who are now at the end of their years, and they all have been hired from 2001 to 2003. what's happening is we have no real good plan to re-hire these workers over time and replace the numbers that we had initially estimated were required to safeguard the transportation domain. so we've seen a drop-down where our numbers are probably at one-third of where they were from the peak and we expect to lose half the workforce again. that far puts an incredible strain on the air marshals that are left. what the real issue is, is as the agency tries to cover as many flights as they can, they cannot do it by giving the fams a schedule. they're just placing fams on
temporary flights, breaking those flights, and then changing their entire schedule for the day. impossible to do a work/life balance, and it's really fatiguing for the air marshals. >> thank you, sir. my time has expired. i now recognize the ranking member from the subcommittee, the general from florida, mr. gimenez, for questions. >> thank you, madam chairwoman. dr. kelley, what percentage of tsos in the force have not been fully vaccinated? do you know that? >> i don't know for certain. now i do know that there is a report from the management that says there is about 60% that have been confirmed to be vaccinated. but i don't have those numbers personally. >> did you say 6% or 60%? >> 60, sir. i'm sorry. >> so up to 40% of tsa workers could be, maybe are not vaccinated at this time? >> well, again, that comes from the agency, which is the record keeper.
and dates from mid-october. it's likely considerable higher now. and we're aware that a number of tsos have medical or religious exemption from getting the vaccine. tsa issued its guidance for exemptions on friday just before the monday deadline to get the vaccine. this process should be fair and it should be timely. but those seeking the exemptions need to be fully considered. that's my thoughts on that. >> since the beginning of the pandemic, tsos, tsas, the tsa has been working at airports. do you think that they've been put at risk? have they been working under unsafe conditions since before the vaccine was available? >> i think that the administration has done a good job of making sure that, as of late, to make sure that the tsos are safe.
so i'm not going to say that they've been put at risk because all of us are at risk. when you go through the airport, you never know what you're going to face. you never know who's going to come to the checkpoint. so, to say that they're not at risk would be not true. but i think that the administration has put some things in place to ensure the safety. >> nothing's ever without risk, sir. everything's got a risk attached to it. my question was prior to the vaccine even being available, were the conditions that you put forward, mask wearing, et cetera, contact, keeping 6 feet away, were those safe enough to keep our tsos -- i mean, were they safe? were they working in a safe environment prior to the vaccine? >> i'm not going to say that they were because we've had 11,000 tsos to contact this
virus. i can't fully say that they were just completely safe. we all have those risks, and we're going to continue to have those risks until this pandemic has been eliminated. >> i understand. you said that you want to see the mandate extended to january 4th. but if you continue to have up to 40% of tsos not vaccinated, do you think it'd be right for the federal government to terminate 40% of your workforce? and what do you think that will cause to the traveling public and transportation industry if in fact it's enforced? >> you know, i've said a lot of this, you know, is about fairness and careful contemplation. we have asked the biden administration to extend the deadline to january the 4th to be vaccinated and january the 18th to be fully vaccinated. the deadline that they have given to federal contractors who work alongside the federal employees, it's the dividing of the people and unequal treatment
that -- opposition to the vaccine mandate. we hope our members can have time with their families during the holidays and reflect on what is important to all of us and reach conclusions that our families are being able to provide are of the utmost important. we also want this time to allow for consideration of exemption for strongly held beliefs. i'm a man of deep faith myself. my faith has led me to believe that the right thing to do is to get vaccinated. and i've done so. and i also know that the people -- >> the question was, do you think that if this actually gets enforced, will it have a disruptive -- will it be disruptive to transportation in america? i mean, it's a yes-or-no answer. up to 40% of your people may be terminated after january 4th, i understand the date now. do you think -- to the transportation industry? >> if 40% is terminated, of
course. i was trying to get to that. i was trying to get to the point -- >> thank you. i'm pretty close to being out of time. so, thank you for your answers. i appreciate it, and i yield back. thank you, madam chair. >> thank you. no problem. >> thank you to the ranking member. we're all concerned about certainly that question. we hope that any time will be available we can educate and make access to these vaccines more readily available. i am now going to recognize the chairman of the full committee mr. thompson, the gentleman from mississippi. >> thank you very much, madam chair. just this past weekend, we heard another disturbing attack on a southwest airlines employee. as ms. nelson has stated, we cannot accept frequency and intensity of these assaults as
our new normal. much discussion has been as of late around building some sort of a database or a list to keep passengers who perpetuate vicious attacks against front line aviation workers off planes. three of the witnesses today have made reference in their comments to some kind of concept around testimony. so, this is for dr. kelley, ms. nelson, and mr. samuelsen. how do you envision such a list or a database functioning? and what criteria would exist for placing a passenger on such a list?
>> would are it be okay if i answered first, chairman? >> sure. >> so we believe that the establishment of a no-fly list would be part of a very important part of a multifaceted approach administered by the tsa. not a stand-alone kind of panacea that's going to solve all the problems but part of a multilegged approach. and we believe that the criteria to be on that list is either a conviction or a fine by the faa, whereby that the due process of the individuals who are put on the no-fly list are protected. we work for employees that accuse us of doing unfair things all the time, and they wrongly accuse us so we're well aware of what the due process requirements would be here. but if there's not a no-fly list, people are going to continue to get on the planes and continue to assault plane crews and gate agents. it's an absolute must that this
list be established and it be done in a fair way where due process is protected. thank you. >> ms. nelson? >> chair thompson, i'll just echo what president samuelsen said about having this be a coordinated list at the tsa. with the requirement of a conviction or a fine from the faa, but also there can be an additional tier of advising and flagging for potential problem passenger where's one airline has conducted an internal investigation and determined that they are going to ban that traveler from that particular airline. that information should at least be shared with the other airlines so they have the information and can address the issue as passengers are purchasing tickets as well. so it's another step that could be added to the list that would not be a no fly required by tsa but shared information to help make good decisions and keep problems on the ground. >> dr. kelley? >> thank you. thank you, chairman thompson. i echo my colleagues here.
i believe that it is paramount to have such a process with an assurance of due process to make sure -- this is what our lifeblood is about, making sure that everyone has due process, is treated fairly and with dignity. so i certainly agree. >> okay. so, ms. nelson, without getting into the weeds, that incident that occurred on southwest over the weekend. what kind of list would you recommend that person get on? >> once the faa or fbi, doj has conducted their investigation and there is a determination about either levying fines or conviction, then that person would be on a no-fly list across the industry. does that help, chairman thompson? >> yeah. i'm just trying to get to the bottom line. so, mr. casaretti, you've done a
lot of flying. how would you like to -- i'd like to get your input on this. >> thank you, chairman. i'd go a step further on the making this a little bit more homogenous. i think everybody should be able to report a violation. i think everybody should be able to report an incident from a transportation worker at the lowest levels all the way up to corporate security or an internal investigation. what i would suggest is that there be investigative person or body in the middle that can verify what the story is. so we've had plenty of times when we've responded to checkpoints because tsos have been assaulted. we've done our due diligence, asks questions. and we've called in multiple law enforcement to have local charges brought against them. most often times the local charges are not brought, somebody doesn't want to file charges or it doesn't rise to the level of local charges. what we need is a unified
federal presence here. we need federal officers taking care of federal interest. and while the fbi obviously are federal officers, they are pretty busy. and this is a whole new category of stuff for them to be looking at. so, i submit that air marshals could actually do this and could be liaisoning with the airlines and anybody who is assaulted, do an investigation on what had happened and putting these individuals on the list itself. that would take a lot of the burden off existing investigatory agencies that, quite honestly, may not respond to the checkpoints for these types of low-level incidents or to the gate agents if something happens to the gate agent. i can't imagine that an fbi agent would be taken his time out to come to an airport just to question an individual. i have not seen it happen unless it's a high-profile thing. >> thank you very much. i yield back, madam chair.
>> thank you, chairwoman and ranking member as well. as you all know virtually every industry in america is currently facing significant labor shortages, which are being exacerbated by the biden administration's vaccine mandates. my constituents who work in industries spanning from hospitality to healthcare, have all been telling me the same thing, vaccine mandates are crippling their industry's ability to recover from this pandemic. president biden's vaccine mandates apply to all federal workers including tsa employees. as of mid-october, only 60% of tsa employees have provided documentation showing that they were fully vaccinated against covid-19. and yet the deadline is quickly approaching. dr. kelley, you've stated it is inexcusable that contractors are
being given the entire holiday season to meet the mandates, while federal employees continue to be subject to the november 22nd deadline. giving that impending deadline, the current workforce shortages within tsa and the upcoming rise in travel over the holiday season, what are challenges do you expect the tsa and its employees to encounter? and do you think that the vaccine mandate requirements will worsen those challenges? >> well, you know, i think that challenges are going to be there. i've outlined how tough the job of the tso is. there is a lot of reason why tso, you know, will be meeting the organization because you deal with low pay and difficult work environments to top all of
them. but the challenge is going to be the long wait lines and all the things are just going to be there because of the fact that there's such a high turnover, and the fact that we've not done an exceptional job in making sure that the work force will replenish. we still have people that's in training that should be on the floor performing their jobs right now. and this is what's going to create the challenge. >> may i ask you this, though? and i certainly understand and agree with you with what they get paid, and in general what you're saying. but the fact that we are going to lose some of them, a good number of them, unless this mandate, this vaccine mandate changes, is obviously, i think, going to increase that challenge even more. wouldn't you agree? -- i've spoken to folks that work there and some believe in their personal freedom and will not get the vaccine.
and if they lose their job, they lose their job. and i know you've heard the same thing. >> i agree to a degree. that's the reason why we are asking the administration, you know, to at least give some sense of parity when it comes to the vaccine mandate deadlines because it gives those employees the opportunity to think things through over the holiday and those type of things where they feel that there is some sense of fairness there. if i say that it's not going to affect it, i will be incorrect, i know that. >> but i'm just saying that there are a lot more reasons why tsos are leaving the job site rather than the vaccine. that's all i'm saying. >> okay. it's a combination, i understand that. it's a combination we don't need, it's going to make things tough. mr. casaretti, i have the largest federal air service in my district with 85% of all
training performed there at the atlantic city location. can you explain how the rise in unruly passengers is impacting the service and whether you believe mask mandates are forcing air marshals to shift their focus from potential defeating that threat. the mask mandate, everybody has pretty much adapted to it. getting in front of covid and flying during pandemic is one of those things sweped. i don't think that we are any less ready or prepared to meet
any threats either current or evolving because of the masks themselves. we don't like wearing them. i apologize. i forgot the first part of your question. >> i think you covered it pretty well. the unruly passengers because people o rankier than eve in society today. >> the gentleman's time has expired. >> thank you for your service. >> thank you. >> let me thank mr. pain for letting me go ahead of him. e represent las vegas. we have 40 million visitors that come here.
you said many airlines have suspended in flight alcohol. are they finding more people drinking in the airport before they get on the plane because they're going to be denied that cocktail and is that causing you a problem. ? >> thank you so much frp your question. we really need to focus onto go alcohol and delivery of the alcohol to the gate.
this started since covid. there's a push of that alcohol which is not helpful at all. we provide some examples of that in written testimony. it's an example in my testimony that includes a sticker on the drink when they are serving that to help people understand they cannot carry that on the plane. if we cut that back and tie
anybody back, we're doing that. >> thank you. dr. kelly. >> once again, i think now social security become expected. we have to do some things to try to curtail that. i would say we really need pay attention to that. >> i think so too. you'll have more people traveling and people feeling more secure. are y'all ready for the holidays, geared up? you going to be able to handle
these folks? >> is that question for me? >> that would be fine. >> i know the work force i represent will handle the situation. they'll handle every situation because that's the type of employees that we represent. they're going to do their job. they'll do it effectively and efficiently. >> i think you're right. i see them every weekend when i travel back and forth. are you expecting any increase problems for the holiday season? any special thing y'all are doing? >> well, not necessarily. we just try to prepare ourselves for whatever comes. nothing we're expecting out of the ordinary.
>> miss nelson. >> we're thinking about the operation because when there are operational disruption, that adds to the anger and angst in the airport. as families are saying why do we want you to go to work, it's very helpful. we won't be able to do that in time for the holidays. we need to have other solutions. we need to make sure we can handle that demand. >> thank you very much. thank you, madame chairman. i yield back. thank you. the member's time has expired, dr. kelly. thank you.
wanted to say, because we do not have anymore members. we do not have anymore questions. and we do have a vote that's been called. >> no, thank you. i'm so gracious for that. i just wanted to elaborate on what my colleague ms. nelson said. the tsos do not have the luxury to negotiate such conditions of employment as the attendants, airline attendants. that is why it is so important that we understand the necessity of passing the permanent piece of legislation to give the tso the right to negotiate these
same rights that the airline industry and flight attendants are able to negotiate. i applaud ms. nelson for having that ability, but we need the same flexibility. >> thank you, dr. kelley. i now recognize the gentlelady from iowa, dr. miller meeks. >> thank you chairman watson coleman. i appreciate this hearing and the testimony of our witnesses. dr. kelley, i am also a physician, former director of public health. i am going to start this by saying that i'm fully vaccinated and in the 24 counties in my district in iowa, i held vaccine clinics and all 24 counties i encouraged people to be vaccinated, helped assist them and answered questions. one of the things i had found very disturbing, you know, over the course and especially when president biden said he would institute a vaccine mandate has been this division and pitting
of vaccinated people against unvaccinated people. and even recently the cdc said they have no data or information on people having had infection-acquired immunity or natural immunity, having been hospitalized for covid-19 or they have record of those deaths. so you had recently asked the white house to delay the executive order deadline until january 18th for all federal employees to be vaccinated so the deadline would be consistent with the mandate for federal contractors. mr. casaretti expressed the same for the air marshal association. dr. kelley, can you explain why afge is concerned about the november 22nd deadline for federal employee vaccine mandates, or is it just consistency? >> it's a number of things. first of all, this has caused a lot of confusion. the federal employee is asking me the question why do i have to work right beside a federal
contractor that don't have to be vaccinated, you know, and can come to work and work beside me and possibly expose me? it is inexcusable that the contractors are given the entire holiday season to meet the mandate while federal employees continue to be subject to the november 22nd deadline. we think if there is some parity here, it would give the federal employee during the holidays to talk with their families and be able to rationalize, can i really go and do this and be where i need to be as a good federal employee.
that is the idea here. it is a sense of fairness. it eliminates confusion and those types of things is why we have asked the white house to make sure we have the same deadlines. >> i would agree with you. i have been as i said i think shaming, blaming, ridiculing people whether on social media or in person is not the way to get people to be vaccinated, and i also think that there is this lack of recognition of infection-acquired immunity which the israeli study has demonstrated, that it is as prevalent or even better so there should be recognition that these people that have had covid-19 and recovered have immunity and we should be talking about immunity and not just vaccination. to that point i have a bill that would mandate coverage, insurance coverage regardless of the type of insurance for serology testing which would be humoral antibodies testing which is the longer term immunity for viruses both of which have been long lasting. so it is one way to prove there is immunity from covid-19 because we know even if you're vaccinated you can transmit the virus. it does seem to be a double standard. i would agree on that. we'll continue to push those issues and i would say delaying the mandate to have the same date as january 18th would be a sensible policy and also help you in your desire for parity among those that are federal
contractors. can you also explain how this requirement will impact the tsa? let me just say the tsa like health care providers, like essential workers throughout the pandemic with no vaccine for 15 months worked, kept people safe, kept co-workers safe, kept each other safe with personal protective equipment, distancing, protective barriers. they were able to keep people safe even though they were at risk themselves and risked their family members when they went home throughout the pandemic without a vaccine, which is another source of hypocrisy to me in the mandate. but how these requirements affect the tsa and ability to be fully staffed at airports and surface transportation sites during the upcoming holiday
season as you mentioned. >> well, again, it is my belief that the lack of staffing is not really related to the mandate. i strongly believe that. i strongly believe that the lack of staffing and the issues we may face come this holiday season, you know, with a staffing shortage if you call it that, will be because of the fact we just did not replenish the work force and because of the fact we have not done all the hiring we said we were going to do. you've still got people we've haired, still in training not even on the floor yet. in my opinion that is where the problem is going to be. but the work force has been --
>> thank you very much, dr. kelley. the gentlelady's time has expired. i'm sorry. thank you. >> i yield back my time. >> thank you to the gentlelady. i wan to thank every one of the witnesses that testified here today. you gave us very important information, a lot for us to chew on, because we are very concerned about the safety and security of both those who are flying and those who are serving those who are flying, and those who are in other forms of transportation as well. the members of the subcommittee may have additional questions to the witnesses and we ask you respond expeditiously in writing to those members. the chair reminds you that the subcommittee record will be open for ten days. with that, the subcommittee stands adjourned. thank you so much.
the supreme court heard oral argument challenging a texas abortion law which bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. private citizens are given the power to enforce the law by filing civil suits. the oral argument is an hour and a half. we'll hear argument next in case 21588 united states versus texas, general prologar. >> mr. chief justice and may it please the court, texas designed
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