May 6, 2011 Volume 112 Number 9

Airport screeners vote to unionize

It's one of the biggest union wins in recent times: 43,000 transportation security officers (TSOs) at 450 airports will be union-represented. Which union they will belong to is still to be decided.

Voting took place March 9 to April 19 by phone and Internet. The way it worked, the workers had three choices: AFL-CIO-affiliated American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE); the independent National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), or no union.

In order to win, one of the choices had to gain 50 percent plus one vote of all the TSOs voting. No one reached that majority, but 84 percent voted for a union.

AFGE got the most votes, 8,369 (43 percent). NTEU got 8,095 (41 percent). And 3,111 (16 percent) favored "no union."

A runoff election has been tentatively scheduled for May 23 to June 21, and votes will be tallied June 23.

The workers are federal employees and work for the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). TSA was created after airport security was federalized in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

And though they do not have collective bargaining rights, more than 12,000 TSO members are currently in 40 AFGE locals across the country. AFGE Local 1127 is the local for workers in Oregon, and Local 1121 has workers in Washington and Alaska.

"During a time when this country's federal workers and their unions are under attack, it speaks volumes that transportation security officers nationwide stood strong and voted to have a union," said AFGE National President John Gage. "By voting for a voice at work, TSOs have demonstrated that when American workers are given a choice — without intensive intimidation campaigns — they want a union."

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