Don't you feel safer in America's skies now?
The nation's 44,000 newly unionized airport screeners have ratified their first-ever collective bargaining agreement, giving them more say in what they wear on the job, the shifts they work and the time off they take, whether they can change from part-time to full-time work or back, their union announced today.
The American Federation of Government Employees union, which won the right to represent the screeners in an election last year, said its members voted 17,326 to 1,774 in favor of ratifying the first labor deal struck with the Transportation Security Administration since the agency was founded 10 years ago in the wake of 9/11.
"It feels great," said Stacy Bodtmann, one of 1,200 screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport, and a member of the union's national negotiating team for its TSA bargaining unit. "It was a good turnout - I wasn't sure because they gave us limited time to vote - but it was half the workforce, and it was 10-1, a landslide."
Bodtmann was at AFGE headquarters in Washington D.C., today, for a ratification signing ceremony that involved union and TSA officials. The 3-year deal is effective Dec. 9.
The TSA's enabling legislation left it up to the TSA administrator to grant screeners collective bargaining rights. When the agency was formed, the position of the Bush Administration was that work rules achieved through collective bargaining might hinder TSA managers' ability to mobilize screeners for security purposes. However, the TSA's current administrator under the Obama Administration, John Pistole, decided in 2010 to allow collective bargaining rights with the provision that pay and security-related issues were not negotiable.
The agency and the AFGE took about 8 months to work out the terms of the three-year deal, before it was put to a nationwide electronic vote this fall.
The only concern should be does unionizing screeners enhance our security or detract from it? Incompetent or derelict screeners already had excellent job protection as federal government workers. And since pay is not part of the contract, what reason is there for workers to unionize?
I guess the screeners considered it vital that they have more freedom in what they wear on the job. Al-Qaeda is laughing.