Contest to organize airport screeners heats up

The American Federation of Government Employees on Tuesday announced progress on its petition to hold a unionization election at the Transportation Security Administration. But the rival National Treasury Employees Union remains close behind AFGE in the race to represent airport screeners exclusively, according to its leader.

AFGE on Feb. 22 filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority for an agencywide election at TSA, saying it had enrolled 12,000 of 40,000 nonsupervisory TSA workers as members. Kelley said on Tuesday that NTEU also had gathered 12,000 membership applications or signed union cards indicating TSA workers wanted to organize with NTEU. She added her union would file its own petition for a national election soon, though she declined to give a date. Unions must demonstrate that they have organized 30 percent of an agency's workforce before they can petition for an election to become its sole union.

"This is a critical issue, not just for Transportation Security officers, but for every federal employee," said NTEU President Colleen Kelley, during the opening session of the union's three-day legislative conference in Washington. "We cannot let the TSA workforce continue to go unrepresented, and I know NTEU will provide the best possible representation, unmatched by any other union, without question."

In response to AFGE's petition, FLRA has asked the Transportation Security Administration to provide a list of employees to verify their names against the union's membership lists. FLRA also asked AFGE to state its position on the unionization campaign, and to post notices in airports nationwide informing employees that an election petition has been filed. AFGE President John Gage praised FLRA's rapid response to the petition.

"The process of determining who TSOs want to bargain their contract is one that the FLRA takes very seriously," he said in a statement. "We are confident that an election will take place very soon."

But FLRA spokeswoman Sarah Spooner said her agency's actions were a routine first step in processing a petition, and "no decision has been made with respect to the merits of the petition."

AFGE had filed a petition for an election in 2003, but FLRA rejected it, saying TSA, which is not covered by the Title 5 civil service rules that govern most federal agencies, was outside FLRA's jurisdiction. Carol Waller Pope, now the chairwoman of FLRA, disagreed with that decision, but it is not clear if the agency will reverse its ruling.

The two unions have taken different positions on the question of whether to try to hold an agencywide election at TSA before its employees are guaranteed the right to bargain collectively, whether through legislation, an executive order, or a decision by the TSA administrator, who under current law has the authority to extend or deny collective bargaining rights to the workforce. NTEU previously said the question of collective bargaining rights should be decided first, while AFGE maintains it makes more sense to start by determining representation.

"By settling the question of representation first, AFGE will be ready to begin negotiations as soon as the bargaining rights are established," the union wrote in its petition to FLRA.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.