Orlando is the No. 1 tourist destination in the country in the country, but its airport authority is putting the lives of kids and adults at risk by voting to return Orlando International Airport to the pre-9/11 era where airport security was in the hands of low-paid private screeners with little training and high turnover.
Private security firm Covenant has had a lobbyist at Orlando’s airport for years, and it appeared to pay off when the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) Feb. 21 voted 6 to 1 to begin the process of handing over control of airport security to a for-profit corporation.
Of the six board members who voted to privatize airport security, four were appointed by Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has a long track record of pushing the government to auction off public assets such as prisons and mental health services to private companies.
But they have no good reason to privatize the work being carried out ably by more than 1,100 TSA officers. Orlando, which welcomed 44 million visitors in 2017, ranks No. 1 out of 18 large airports in J.D. Power’s 2017 traveler satisfaction study. The airport received 4 out of 5 stars, meaning it’s better than most airports.
The board is seeking to fix a non-existent problem. That’s why AFGE, which represents 45,000 TSA officers nationwide, is calling for the immediate resignation of airport TSA management. They have failed working people and jeopardized the American public traveling through Orlando.
“It’s disgraceful to see this appointed group vote to place profits over passengers,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. Said.
The fight is not over
With less than a few weeks' notice, AFGE organized a major campaign to roll back this bad proposal to outsource national security. AFGE TSA members and staff met with the GOAA board members Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and GOAA Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher ahead of the vote. We met with aides of Orange City Mayor Teresa Jacobs and spoke to her at the Board of County Commissioners monthly meeting. We held two rallies: one outside the Orange County Administration Center which garnered the attention of six TV camera crews and one radio program; the other outside the main terminal at the airport which local media covered with a live shot on their morning coverage.
AFGE TSA members received huge support from members of Congress and allies. After President Cox spoke to the Orange County Democrats at their monthly meeting the night before the vote, Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida, who was in attendance, along with her colleague Rep. Darren Soto wrote letters of support for TSA to GOAA board. Rep. Val Demings sent staff to the GOAA meeting and supported TSA. Sen. Bill Nelson wrote a letter of support for TSA to GOAA. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka put out a statement in support of AFGE and TSA.
At the meeting before the vote, 25 people spoke against privatization, including Rep. Soto and Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson. AFGE's allies packed the room. They included Florida Fight for 15, Planned Parenthood, Jobs With Justice, Central Florida Labor Council, Teamsters, and employees from Southwest at Orlando.
Our campaign resulted in Mayor Teresa Jacobs attempting to get the GOAA board to table the vote for privatization and wait until after the board met with legislators in Washington. Dyer and Kruppenbacher supported her. The same three board members blamed airport TSA management and Federal Security Director Henderson for problems at the airport. They didn’t blame frontline workers or their union.
Even though the board didn't table the privatization vote, they agreed to a 60-day extension for the GOAA board to discuss efforts to fix TSA management. That means AFGE has more time to prove that the TSA officers at MCO are not the problem and shouldn’t lose their job.
AFGE TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas thanked our allies who stood with us in solidarity during this fight.
“We all know how vital our TSA workforce is, and even though the board decided today that they’d rather see private companies contract out this work than ensure the safety of the flying public in Orlando, we are not done fighting,” he said.
AFGE and the hardworking Orlando TSA officers will explore every avenue available to make sure the board hasn’t jeopardized all US air safety.