October 26, 2003
Enid Doggett
Diane Witiak
(202) 639-6421/6422

Group of Airline Employee Unions, Consumers Union & Transportation Trade Department Say “No” to Privatization of Airport Screeners and Other Airline Employees

Zogby Poll Says 69% of Voters Feel Safer with Federal TSA Workforce

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Representatives of the labor unions for airline pilots, flight attendants, customer service agents, and employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense who certify the safety and the efficiency of the National Airspace System joined the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today at a news conference to demand that airport security continue to be handled by federal employees.

An October Zogby Poll of likely voters reinforces the statements made by participants at the news conference. The Zogby Poll found, “More than two-thirds of likely voters (69%) feel safer knowing that the federal government has a trained professional workforce protecting our airports.”

The event was held to commemorate the anniversary of the establishment of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), signed into law on Nov. 19, 2001, in response to the horrific attacks of 9/11. In addition to the creation of TSA, ATSA also required that federal employees be charged with the critical responsibility of screening airport passengers and baggage. This same law allows airports the opportunity to opt out of the government’s federalized screening program and begin again to use contractors after only one short year.

AFGE National President John Gage noted that despite overwhelming public support for a federalized airport security workforce, plans are already underway to re-privatize that workforce. “Only this time,” Gage warns, “the administration will call the contract workers a ‘federalized’ workforce in a sham concocted to deceive the American people.”

Two TSA passenger screeners from Newark and Logan International Airports and members of AFGE Local 1 also spoke at the news conference about the role they play as part of the front line in the fight against terrorism at home and the pride they feel for the important work they do to protect our country.

“Because of the hostile environment created by TSA, it has had a hard time keeping screeners on the payroll, despite our troubled economy,” said Gage.

Both screeners emphasized the need for collective bargaining rights to give them and the American people the checks and balances that are needed to ensure that screeners receive first-rate, on-going training and a voice on the job to raise the red flag if needed, without fear of reprisal.

“Unions are good for national security,” Gage added. “As shown during the emergency response to the September 11th attacks, the cohesion fostered by union membership creates an ethos of acting for the common good—placing the needs of the many ahead of those of the individual.”

“The critical work of airport security should remain with federal employees whose motivation is quality service to the American people—not profit margins,” Gage concluded. “Possible pressure exerted by the airline industry to keep screening lines moving to avoid flight delays could compromises security. Federal screeners should be afforded union protection and collective bargaining rights to allow them to be free from influence and political coercion in the face of industry pressures and profits.”

Gage told reports that the union was prepared to take the constitutional issue of screeners’ rights of freedom of speech and association to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Groups who provided statements and/or participated include:

Association of Flight Attendants
The Air Line Pilots Association
Professional Airways Systems Specialists
Communications Workers of America
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
Consumers Union
TSA Passenger Screener Stacy Bodtmann, Newark International Airport
TSA Passenger Screener Andrew J. Kluttz, Logan International Airport

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