PHOENIX - A flight attendants union with 2,000 members is upset over what it calls "invasive pat-downs" recently implemented by the TSA.
"We're getting calls daily about peoples' experiences, our members are concerned," said Deborah Volpe, Vice President of the Association of Flight Attendants Local 66.
Volpe confirmed that the union is offering advice to its flight attendants, who mostly work for Tempe-based USAirways, involving the security moves.
According to a union email obtained by ABC15, it tells flight attendants if they opt out of using the body scanner through security and are required to undergo a pat-down to ask the pat-down be conducted in a private area with a witness.
"We don't want them in uniform going through this enhanced screening where their private areas are being touched in public," said Volpe. "They actually make contact with the genital area."
Some passengers have told ABC15 they've already encountered flight delays due to crew members having problems with TSA employees.
"It (delay) was over three hours when they finally found a crew member to take her place," said Les Johnson who says his Charlotte bound flight was delayed. "She (flight attendant) felt that she was groped and supposedly filed a claim."
According to Volpe, complaints from flight attendants are expected to continue to increase and said some flight attendants are planning to file lawsuits.
"They've already contacted the ACLU," said Volpe when referring to some members of the union. "We don't know if somebody may have had an experience with a sexual assault and its (pat-down) going to drudge up some bad memories."
Volpe made it clear the union is not against security.
"Security is the most important aspect, our offices were used as murder weapons," said Volpe. "Keep in mind we undergo extensive background checks and we fly quite often."
Volpe said she has been a flight attendant for nearly 25 years and she and other union leaders are pushing for a "crew pass" system that would allow flight attendants and pilots to essentially by-pass security.
"We don't want to delay anyone, we just feel this pat-down is a little much." (11.10.2010) http://www.abc15.com/dpp/lifestyle/travel/flight-attendants-union-upset-over-new-pat-down-procedures
US Airline Pilots Association Presidents Statement in full:
The TSAs rapid deployment of Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening machines, followed by the new Enhanced Pat-Down procedures, have caused turmoil for airline pilots and the traveling public alike. These changes are far reaching, intrusive and have been implemented almost overnight, leaving little time for groups who are adversely affected to form a response.
On October 21, USAPAs Security Committee issued an update on the new AIT scanners and outlined our options for dealing with the new rules. Since that time several pilots and flight attendants have encountered problems with TSOs and their implementation of the rules. One US Airways pilot, after being selected for an enhanced pat-down, experienced a frisking that has left him unable to function as a crewmember. The words this pilot used to describe the incident included sexual molestation, and in the aftermath of trying to recover, this pilot reported that he had literally vomited in his own driveway while contemplating going back to work and facing the possibility of a similar encounter with the TSA. This is a very serious situation, and it represents a crossroads for all U.S. airline pilots.
One of the difficulties is the TSAs intentional random application of the rules. While it might be effective for their purposes, it wreaks havoc with our ability to inform our pilots on how to handle each and every situation.
Here is a summary of USAPAs current position on AIT screening machines and Enhanced Pat-Down procedures:
Pilots should NOT submit to AIT screening. The TSA has offered no credible specifications for the radiation emitted by these machines. As pilots, we are exposed to more radiation as a function of our normal duties than nearly every other category of worker in the United States. Based on currently available medical information, USAPA has determined that frequent exposure to TSA-operated scanner devices may subject pilots to significant health risks.
Pilots should employ the following method of avoiding AIT screening:
Make every effort to use security access lines that utilize standard magnetometer devices. If security access points with magnetometer devices are not available, or if there is a change in the device being used once in line, pilots should elect to submit to a private TSA-agent pat-down.
When submitting to a private, enhanced pat-down procedure, pilots must be sure that a witness, preferably a crewmember, accompanies them during the pat-down.
After being subjected to an enhanced pat-down procedure, pilots must evaluate their fitness for duty. As has been determined, there is a wide range of possibilities once you submit to a private screening, and the results can be devastating. Unacceptable as this is to all USAPA pilots, and until these invasive measures are no longer implemented on airline pilots, it is your responsibility to make sure you are emotionally fit and not stressed in any way by your close encounter with the TSA.
Remain professional and courteous in all situations.
Contact any member of the Security Committee if you need any assistance.
Lets be perfectly clear: the TSA procedures we have outlined above are blatantly unacceptable as a long-term solution. Although an immediate solution cannot be guaranteed, I can promise you that your union will not rest until all U.S. airline pilots have a way to reach their workplace the aircraft without submitting ourselves to the will of a TSO behind closed doors. This situation has already produced a sexual molestation in alarmingly short order. Left unchecked, theres simply no way to predict how far the TSA will overreach in searching and frisking pilots who are, ironically, mere minutes from being in the flight deck. As we all know, it makes no difference what a pilot has on his or her person or in their luggage, because they have control of the aircraft throughout the entire flight. The eyewash being dribbled by the TSA in this instance is embarrassingly devoid of common sense, and we will not stand for it.
USAPAs Security Committee and USAPA Legal are working diligently on several fronts to find an acceptable remedy. I directed our legal team to request of the TSA, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, any written materials that contain the protocol for conducting these enhanced pat-downs. Should this situation not be resolved by working with the TSA, we will take our concerns to Capitol Hill. On a parallel track, we are working with the other CAPA pilot unions to find allies in our struggle. Make no mistake; this is a fight to restore the dignity we deserve as the last line of defense against terrorists who would use airplanes as weapons of mass destruction. We are not the enemy, and we will not stand for being treated as such before each duty period. The TSA needs to recognize professional airline pilots for the security asset that we are, even as many of us serve as Federal Flight Deck Officers. There are a number of access mechanisms available as a remedy, including CrewPass and biometric identification. These solutions will allow the TSA to capitalize on airline pilots as security assets.
This letter is meant to provide you with important interim guidance as we seek long-term solutions. Please stay up to date on this critical affront to our profession. Documentation will be a critical element to this battle. Therefore, should you have any difficulties traversing security, please outline the incident with as much detail as possible, including TSO names and badge numbers, and send it immediately to Security@usairlinepilots.org. I urge each of you to continue to maintain your ultimate professionalism in the face of these attacks on our profession. As you maintain your composure, your union will fight unequivocally with all of our resources and allies to right this wrong.
Captain Mike Cleary
"To Achieve World
Government it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism,
their loyalty to family traditions and national identification" Brock Chisholm - Director of the World Health Organization
"A society whose citizens refuse to see and investigate the facts, who refuse to believe that their government and their media will routinely lie to them and fabricate a reality contrary to verifiable facts, is a society that chooses and deserves the Police State Dictatorship it's going to get." Ian Williams Goddard
The fact is that "political correctness" is all about creating uniformity. Individualism is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of the New World Order. They want a public that is predictable and conditioned to do as it's told without asking questions.
"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first." Thomas Jefferson