Over 10 years ago, when AFGE first started working with TSA Officers seeking to form a union, we heard one issue loud and clear at many of the large and urban airports: FREE PARKING.
Officers trying to make ends meet on the meager wages paid by TSA were shelling out hundreds of dollars for parking at the airport, just to get to their jobs. Free parking remained a top issue throughout years of organizing, and it carried over to the bargaining table as a priority item after officers voted for AFGE as their union.
TSA management, notoriously stingy with funding for their officers, fought back for all those years. Even in bargaining, where parking subsidies were expressly on the table, management dragged their feet. AFGE held out for free parking, and the parties deadlocked on the issue in negotiations. When AFGE took the issue before the panel of independent arbitrators, TSA lawyers called the agency’s chief financial officer as a witness to bemoan the cost of free parking. While we prevailed on most of the other issues in arbitration, the panel awarded only a minimal increase in parking subsidies. AFGE vowed to continue the fight.Yesterday, that battle finally came to an end. After years of pressure from AFGE and front line officers, TSA management gave in, agreeing to grant free parking.
This is a clear victory for every AFGE member who has worked hard to erase the penalty imposed on many officers forced to pay high parking fees just to come to work. And, it’s a victory for all TSOs to have finally leveled the playing field with our colleagues at CBP. We work in the same airports, we are all federal officers, we even work for the same agency: Department of Homeland Security. Now we will finally have equal parking benefits.
Although free parking won’t take effect until this coming Fall, we have won. With this issue resolved just before we begin preparations for the upcoming negotiations, we won’t have to waste time or leverage in this round of talks on an issue that should have been addressed by management years ago.
So, take a bow TSOs. You’ve earned this. While not all of our colleagues will be directly affected by the parking change, it was our solidarity as a group that finally made this possible. For the officers who have paid high parking fees for years, this day is long over due. We can all be glad to have eliminated this drain on the paychecks of the officers who will be covered by the change. Once again, it pays to be AFGE.