Federal Workers Union Pushes
to Represent Airport Screeners
By Joe Davidson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
In a bid to jump-start the effort to organize airport security officers, the American Federation of Government Employees announced Monday that it is filing a petition seeking an election to represent them.
The petition to the Federal Labor Relations Authority is an escalation in the long battle over collective bargaining rights for about 40,000 transportation security officers (TSOs) who screen luggage at the nation's airports.
The AFGE and the National Treasury Employees Union have signed up TSOs as members in preparation for an election. Although some TSOs are union members, they do not have collective bargaining rights. Until now, the labor organizations have worked to get those rights through administrative and legislative routes, before seeking an election.
But the recent withdrawal of Erroll Southers as President Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration was a setback for the unions, which had hoped for a TSA ruling that would allow collective bargaining. An election to determine which union would represent the workers would have followed.
"While it would be ideal for a TSA administrator to have granted collective bargaining rights first, the two do not have to go hand-in-hand," AFGE President John Gage said in a statement Monday. "By settling the question of representation first, AFGE will be ready to begin negotiations as soon as the bargaining rights are established."
Gaining the right to represent the airport screeners is a top priority for both unions. The winner would get a major membership boost and significantly raise its profile among federal employees.
Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, responded to the AFGE announcement by saying that her union would win any election. But she added, "It would be a far better scenario for employees if the administration would grant them collective bargaining rights. It is unclear what an exclusive representative would mean under this structure."
By petitioning for an election at this point, Gage is making an aggressive move to win the support of TSOs. He announced the petition at a news conference filled with delegates in town for the union's legislative conference. It was like throwing red meat to hungry lions.
The desire for collective bargaining rights is demonstrated by the 13,000 to 14,000 screeners -- about a third of the total -- the AFGE says it has signed up, even without the full slate of rights that generally go with union membership. The National Treasury Employees Union declined to say how many TSO members it has.
Read more HERE from The Washington Post