(WASHINGTON)—The Transportation Security Administration’s response to the American Federation of Government Employees’ petition for exclusive union representation at TSA is “no surprise,” AFGE National President John Gage said today. “We always expected this issue to be decided by the full Authority.”
In a creative bid to move the action forward, AFGE in February filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority seeking an election to determine which union should be recognized as the exclusive representative for Transportation Security Officers. In the petition, AFGE identified what it considered to be an appropriate bargaining unit at TSA. The FLRA docketed the AFGE petition and moved to determine whether or not it met the criteria for processing. It then ordered TSA to post a notice about the election; to submit its designation of which TSOs would comprise a bargaining unit; and to comment on AFGE’s petition.
As expected, TSA asked the FLRA to “assess its authority” to process the petition. A 2003 AFGE petition for several hundred TSOs at BWI airport was denied when the FLRA ruled it did not have jurisdiction over the matter. AFGE believes that the 2003 FLRA majority (in a two to one ruling) confused the issues involved in allowing for an election in the absence of collective bargaining rights, but that the current Authority members may now understand the distinction.
In addition, much has evolved in the relationship between TSA and its union—AFGE—since the filing of that first petition. AFGE has established 37 Local TSA Unions, has represented TSOs in EEO, Workers Comp and other statutory appeals, and has processed hundreds of grievances on behalf of TSOs in many of the nations' 450 airports.
“We clearly already represent these workers,” said AFGE Staff Counsel and Assistant Director of Membership and Organization Cathie McQuiston. “We are seeking to formalize that relationship by asking the FLRA to conduct an election in which TSOs can make clear once and for all that AFGE is their choice.”
In its April 12 letter, TSA also asked the FLRA to suspend the directive requiring the agency to post the notice informing TSOs of the AFGE petition because “ . . . there is a discrepancy between how the Acting Regional Director characterizes the purpose of AFGE’s petition and the purpose stated in the petition itself.”
“AFGE’s petition asked the regional director to decide the question of representation, separate from that of bargaining agent status,” McQuiston said. “However, the FLRA used its standard language in issuing the letter to TSA informing them that a union election petition had been filed. The FLRA ‘opening letter’ states that the AFGE petition ‘... request[s] an election to determine whether certain non-supervisory employees of the Transportation Security Administration wish to be represented for the purpose of collective bargaining.’
“The employees know AFGE filed a petition for a union election and that’s what’s important,” McQuiston added.
In response to TSA’s letter, the FLRA issued to AFGE an order to “Show Cause” by April 27 as to why the union’s petition should not be dismissed. Gage stated that AFGE is prepared to meet that deadline.