Airport security screeners in the U.S. split on union representation, setting up a runoff between two unions to determine which will lead negotiations over transfers, work shifts and uniforms.
The American Federation of Government Employees said it received 8,369 votes, or 43 percent, followed by 8,095 for the National Treasury Employees Union and 3,111 voting for no union. A majority vote was required to declare a winner.
“During a time when this country’s federal workers and their unions are under attack, it speaks volumes that transportation security officers nationwide stood strong and voted to have a union,” AFGE President John Gage said in a statement.
Republicans had said letting screeners join a union would compromise safety on airplanes and lead to higher costs for taxpayers, while labor leaders said collective bargaining would boost morale and retention. The vote is a victory for federal employees as Republican governors and lawmakers close budget deficits by limiting the bargaining rights of public workers.
The union that wins the right to represent the airport screeners will be barred from bargaining over security-related issues such as pay and discipline standards. A vote will be set schedule after the unions and TSA meet, the AFGE said.
TSA was created in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and was exempt from regulations that let federal workers vote on joining a union. The law let the agency administrator decide whether to allow bargaining, which had been banned under President George W. Bush.
In February, John Pistole, the agency’s chief under President Barack Obama, decided to allow the election with restrictions on what a union could bargain over.
“The safety of the traveling public remains our top priority and I have made clear we will not negotiate on security,” Pistole said in a statement today. “However, I continue to believe that employee engagement and morale cannot be separated from achieving superior security.”
The American Federation of Government Employees represents 600,000 government workers, and the National Treasury Employees Union has about 150,000 bargaining-unit employees. The vote was overseen by the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which presides over relations between the government and its workers.