March 27, 2011
The 600 airport security screeners at the Minneapolis-St. Paul international airport are among some 44,000 Transportation Security Administration employees nationwide now taking part in an election to determine whether or not they will be represented by a union.
Voting started March 9 and goes through April 19. Workers will vote via telephone or online in an election conducted by the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
TSA employees only last month were granted the right to vote on whether or not they choose to have a union, following a decision by the new TSA administrator named by President Barack Obama. (That right had been denied when the TSA first was created after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks).
"It's been a long haul. It's nice to see it finally happening," said Roland Thornton, Cottage Grove, who has worked for TSA since July 2005. Thornton is treasurer of Local 899 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which has been organizing TSA employees at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
"I feel a union would bring some say into what we do," Thornton said. "Right now we have no say... I've never been in a job before that has never valued the opinions of their employees."
"Bringing a union into the TSA for me isn't about the money," Thornton said, "It's really about being able to have input into what we do and how we do it."
AFGE has been working with TSA employees to win collective bargaining rights for nine years and currently reports more than 12,000 dues-paying members at airports across the country.
The ballot for the TSA election will give workers three choices: to vote for no union, to vote for AFGE representation, or to vote for representation by the National Treasury Employees Union. NTEU is an independent federal sector union. AFGE is member of the AFL-CIO and has received strong AFL-CIO backing.
If none of the three choices receives at least 50 percent plus one of the vote, a run-off of the top two vote-getters will be conducted.
Here in the Twin Cities, AFGE Local 899 is waging an active campaign to help win the vote, staffing information booths at the airport and phone-banking from the United Labor Centre.
"We're looking for some union members to help," said Joe Radinovich, AFGE organizer.
To volunteer, contact Radinovich at 218-851-1713.
For more information on AFGE's campaign to organize TSA workers, visit www.TSAUnionElection.com