U.S. airport security workers picked the American Federation of Government Employees to be their bargaining unit, giving the labor group the biggest victory for a federal union in 25 years.
The group topped the National Treasury Employees Union by a vote of 8,903 to 8,447, it said in a statement today. The unions were in a runoff to represent Transportation Security Administration workers after neither won a majority in a contest that ended in April which included a no-union option.
“The Transportation Security officers now will have the full union representation they rightly deserve,” John Gage, president of the winning group, said in the statement.
With 600,000 members, the union is the nation’s largest for federal employees. Gage said in March the 44,000 TSA screeners would be the biggest group brought into the union at one time.
The union organization, which Senate Republicans failed to stop in February, may raise TSA’s costs if workers push through changes such as increased staffing.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat who won the White House with labor support, allowed the vote after Republican President George W. Bush’s administration blocked union organization in January 2003, more than a year after the agency was created.
John Pistole, the security agency’s chief, said in his Feb. 4 decision allowing the election that workers can’t bargain over security or disciplinary penalties, strike, or take job actions such as deliberate slowdowns.
They can bargain for a contract of at least three years on issues such as uniforms, parking subsidies, transfers, shift trades, and methods for seeking assignments and leaves, Pistole said in the decision.
Gage has said a priority would be to boost staffing at airports where screeners have been forced to work split shifts. Some work about three hours in the morning, take a mandatory break of about four hours, and finish three more hours later in the day, he said.
Almost 5,000 employees work split shifts at 342 airports, according to agency data.
Gage has also said he would aim to scrap a pay-for- performance system, which according to the agency gives financial incentives for superior performance.