An effort by the state of Georgia to take over and privatize the busiest airport in the world has failed, thanks to a coalition of labor unions, including AFGE.
At the behest of the Governor Brian Kemp, the Georgia legislature introduced legislation for the state of Georgia to take control over the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport from the City of Atlanta. Recognizing that a state-appointed airport authority could have a negative impact on airport workers, the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council formed a Labor Airport Roundtable consisting of affiliated locals including AFGE, IUPAT, Unite-Here, IAM, and SEIU. The affiliates represent workers at the airport and are organizing unrepresented workers.
The Labor Airport Roundtable developed a campaign which included lobbying members of the Georgia legislature. AFGE members, retirees, and staff joined the lobbying campaign asking their Georgia legislature representatives and senators to oppose a state takeover. We held press conferences, published an op-ed, and showed up at town hall meetings.
The take-over legislation, Senate Bill 131, passed the Senate. However, thanks to our campaign, efforts to move the bill failed in the House. The Georgia legislature adjourned April 2 at midnight after a motion to recommit all bills passed. This means that the airport is safe from privatization for now, but the take-over bill most likely will be reconsidered in January next year.
The Labor Airport Roundtable will continue opposing a state takeover of the airport, working with opposition coalitions, lobbying, educating union members and the flying public, until the bill is defeated.
“The Georgia labor movement came together and created a plan to block the Atlanta Airport takeover,” said Georgia AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Yvonne Robinson. “Working together in solidarity, we were able to defeat this legislation that grew from one bill to three bills. Georgia's General Assembly operates on a two-year cycle, so we will be ready for them next year!”
AFGE District 5 National Vice President David Mollett is satisfied with the outcome.
“We have temporarily avoided what could have been potentially devastating to our TSA bargaining unit and other workers at the airport,” said NVP Mollett. “I’m so proud of the efforts of all our local representatives that participated, especially Shekina Givens who was there through the close of the legislative session.”
Givens, president of AFGE local 554 which represents TSA officers at the airport, said the power of people, unity, solidarity, focus and education helped us fight back against the Georgia state government.
“The state thought we weren’t watching to see how they were working and moving to systematically steal something that didn’t belong to them,” she said. “This victory doesn’t belong to any one person or group. Collectively this win belongs to the citizens of Atlanta, the 60,000 workers at the airport and every organization and person that put their heart, sweat, tears, and time into this fight. We stood together this time, and we will stand together every time the representatives that we elect work against the best interest of the people for their political or personal gain.”
James Miller, a TSA officer and member of AFGE Local 554, is happy with the outcome. He himself participated in roundtable meetings and lobbied state legislators to block the bad state law.
“Once again, strength in solidarity has proven to be a true statement. When the state government of Georgia banded together hoping to take ownership of the airport, we banded together to ensure this act of injustice did not happen on any level,” he said. “A victory in this fight is simply fuel for workers to remain together, ensuring that we are treated fairly. We were educated on what we faced, and the education equipped us to stand strong as a united front.”