California Transportation Security Officer Erich Schmidt, an Army veteran, has been honored with AFGE’s Veteran of the Year award.
Schmidt is the AFGE TSA Local 1260’s Legislative and Political Coordinator, and he exemplifies union activism. Whether it’s fighting for Title 5 rights for his fellow coworkers, getting enough PPE to protect against COVID-19, constantly recruiting new members for his local, networking with other local unions, or actively advocating on behalf of veterans, Schmidt has done it all.
Schmidt has been with TSA since 2002 and has been and AFGE member and steward since 2015. A year after joining the union, he took on the work of Legislative and Political Coordinator (LPC) for Local 1260 and has been in that position ever since. As the local’s LPC, he constantly communicates with Congress to ensure TSO issues are heard and to push for passage of legislation that benefits TSOs and AFGE members as a whole.
When he’s not doing all that, he’s networking with the Central Labor Council in the counties of Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo, and has his hand in nearly every coordinated event. He is also an exemplary organizer, actively organizing members at Santa Barbara Area, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Maria airports on the central coast of California.
Schmidt is an active member of the AFGE TSA Council 100 National Veterans Committee, representing Region 6 (AZ, CA, HI, NV), and is the chair of his local’s Veterans Committee. In this capacity, he has successfully worked to ensure access to information for veterans, including the issue of military time buyback for federal retirement and the rights of spouses to transfer to the closet airport upon the military member receiving orders.
“His consistent and relentless efforts toward positive engagement with city, county, state, congressional, and senate elected and non-elected officials, especially on behalf of U.S. veterans, for immediate and long-term solutions, has been indispensable,” said Local 1260 President Bobby Orozco who nominated him.
Asked how he feels about being honored with the award, Schmidt said he was “awe struck.”
“There are so many great veterans that serve the membership of AFGE. It is an honor to be recognized as a union leader and a veteran,” he said. “I would not be here today if it were not for Local 1260 President Bobby Orozco who saw and recognized my potential. I would not be the leader I am if it were not for the mentorship of a great leader and a Veteran, George McCubbin.”
Schmidt said he’s very proud of his work on Title 5 and how he was able to convince many members of Congress to cosponsor H.R. 1140, the bill that would have given TSOs Title 5 rights, but the work he’s most proud of is the work he did at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He organized – on his personal time – multiple tele-townhalls between AFGE members and members of Congress where the employees were able to communicates their needs early on.
“All the locals that were represented in each Congressional District were present. If a local leader was not able to be present, then I would speak to their concerns. That was my proudest moment, speaking truth to power for my fellow union brothers and sisters,” he added. “It did not matter that I had never done their job. It only mattered that we were all AFGE.”