The American Federation of Government Employees union said Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the Transportation Security Administration to represent its nearly 50,000 employees.
The AFGE won the right to represent TSA over the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) in an election held in June.
The union said Thursday that it had finalized a "historic" labor agreement with TSA, providing the airport security agency's workers with collective bargain for the first time.
“For 10 long years AFGE has fought hard so that Transportation Security Officers would have collective bargaining rights," AFGE President John Gage said in a statement. "We have often looked back and wondered why it was taking so long. Today we begin to look forward.”
AFGE's representative for its TSA Council, Kim Kraynak-Lambert, said the labor agreement announced on Thursday "will better the working lives of 45,000 hard-working, dedicated employees.
"TSOs come to work every day in the face of intense public and congressional scrutiny and, to the best of their ability, protect this nation from terrorist attacks," she said. "Now we can look forward to new rights and new working conditions, and a chance to form a true labor-management partnership."
In a committee hearing this week, lawmakers worried that a new labor contract would make it harder for TSA to fire negligent employees.
"If you're not able to fire people for stealing under that new contract, we're going to have a problem," House Transportation Security subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said on Wednesday to TSA's new deputy administrator, John Halinski.
Kraynak-Lambert said Thursday that concerns about the labor agreement negatively affecting airport security were unjustified.
"Contrary to some of the misinformation circulating about TSA, an agreement will not adversely affect security — security related matters were strictly excluded from negotiations," she said. "In fact, this agreement will strengthen our ability to carry out TSA’s vital mission of protecting the American people.”
Gage added that the TSA labor contract would "provide for increased uniformity on fair treatment and the other issues important to employees across the nation’s airports.
“Independent, third-party review is a right that ensures transparency and will improve the working lives of our officers,” he said of disputes between TSA employees and management.
The labor contract will have to ratified in a vote by TSA employees. AFGE said on Thursday the election would take place "in the coming months."