The American Federation of Government Employees announced Monday that it has filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority to become the sole representative of 40,000 Transportation Security Officers -- setting off yet another fight with a rival union, the National Treasury Employees Union.
Under current law, no union is allowed to represent TSOs for collective bargaining, although both unions have represented TSA employees for other purposes, such as arbitration. But even though a bill enabling collective bargaining rights for TSA employees is still before the Senate -- and even though there is no nominee to head the TSA since Erroll Southers withdrew his name -- AFGE said it thought now was the right time for an election to establish a single representative.
"By settling the question of representation first, AFGE will be ready to begin negotiations as soon as the bargaining rights are established," AFGE President John Gage said in a released statement.
In a statement released after AFGE's action, the NTEU -- which also represents TSA employees -- questioned the timing of the action.
"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 Kelley said in a released statement. "However, we question the timing of pursuing exclusive 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."
A similar petition from the AFGE was rejected in 2003, when the FLRA ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over the TSA.