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AFGE and TSA reach first labor contract agreement

AFGE's John Gage

In the wee hours of the morning of Aug. 2, the union that represents 45,000 TSA security officers reached its first labor agreement with the agency.

The agreement now faces a ratification vote by the union’s membership.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) said it had reached the agreement with Transportation Security Administration representatives at 3 a.m. on Aug. 2.

Details of the agreement weren’t announced by AFGE. However, wages and the right for TSOs to strike most likely aren’t included.

A short statement issued the afternoon of Aug. 2 by TSA administrator John Pistole didn’t provide much detail either. “"This agreement represents a significant milestone in our relationship with our employees. We look forward to a review of the agreement by our covered employees," said Pistole.

Wage discussions were banned from discussion in 2011, when Pistole agreed to allow collective bargaining to go forward. He also stipulated in a 2011 memorandum that workers would also be barred from striking.

Pistole said back then that bargaining could be done on issues like vacation time rules, shift assignments, workplace transfers and employee performance recognition on a national level -- but not with state or local unions.

“For 10 long years AFGE has fought hard so that Transportation Security Officers would have collective bargaining rights. We have often looked back and wondered why it was taking so long,” said AFGE National President John Gage said in a statement later on Aug. 2. “Today we begin to look forward.”

“This collective bargaining agreement will better the working lives of 45,000 hard-working, dedicated employees, and that’s a fantastic feeling,” AFGE TSA Council 100 President Kim Kraynak-Lambert said. “Now we can look forward to new rights and new working conditions, and a chance to form a true labor-management partnership. And, contrary to some of the misinformation circulating about TSA, an agreement will not adversely affect security – security related matters were strictly excluded from negotiations. In fact, this agreement will strengthen our ability to carry out TSA’s vital mission of protecting the American people,” he said.

The contract, said Gage, will provide uniform, fair treatment for TSOs at all U.S. airports. “Both parties believe the agreement will also provide much needed schedule flexibility,” he said. “Improvements in working conditions will also benefit both TSA and the officers by fostering a family-friendly workplace where the employees have greater job satisfaction and feel supported in performing their important security work.”

The parties were also able to finalize terms of a new dispute resolution process, according to Gage. “Independent, third-party review is a right that ensures transparency and will improve the working lives of our officer,” he said.

According to Gage, the entire TSA workforce will have the opportunity to ratify the collective bargaining agreement in the coming months.

“I am very pleased that TSA and AFGE came to an agreement on a collective bargaining agreement early this morning,” said a statement by ranking minority leader of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS). Thompson had backed unionization at the agency. “Finally, after a ten-year struggle, Transportation Security Officers are a major step closer to securing the basic workplace rights that they deserve.  This has been a long but worthwhile effort as collective bargaining can enhance workforce productivity, morale, and TSA's mission without affecting security.”