By ARI PAUL
The American Federation of Government Employees Feb. 22 filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority seeking exclusive representation of U.S. Transportation Security Administration screeners, who currently do not have collective bargaining rights.
‘A Two-Part Process’
“We have always known that the choice to unionize and the task of winning collective bargaining rights for the TSA workforce would be a twopart process,” AFGE President John Gage said in a statement. “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. By settling the question of representation first, AFGE will be ready to begin negotiations as soon as the bargaining rights are established.”
The move is the latest development in the on-going turf war between AFGE, an AFL-CIO affiliate, and the independent National Treasury Em- ployees Union, which also represents TSOs at several airports nationwide.
“Should the FLRA determine that this petition is valid, NTEU is ready to compete for and win a union election in TSA,” NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said in a statement. “However, we question the timing of pursuing exclusive representative status without the existence of collective-bargaining rights. More specifically, we question how having an exclusive representative, without collective bargaining, will bring about real, meaningful improvements to TSOs’ work-lives.”
AFGE represents 13,000 airport screeners, including those at John F. Kennedy International Airport, while the NTEU claims to represents screeners at 40 airports. Although neither one is allowed to bargain wages and benefits, screeners are permitted union representation in disciplinary procedures.
Both unions claim they should be the exclusive bargaining agent, as AFGE has argued that it represents other airport workers such as baggage inspectors, while NTEU notes that it represents officers at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
‘Bargaining Rights the Key’
“Collective bargaining is by far the best way to provide a meaningful voice for employees in their workplace,” Ms. Kelley said. “At TSA, it will help foster a trained, committed workforce, and address workplace issues that have hurt TSA from its earliest days and we will continue to make that our priority.”
Mr. Gage said, “In short, AFGE has been acting as the union for [Transportation Security Officers] for almost a decade. Petitioning the FLRA to conduct an election is merely a formality that will establish our union as the only legitimate representative of this long-suffering workforce.”