TSA IS A VERY BRIGHT SPOT FOR ORGANIZED LABOR
There is not a lot of good news about unions these days. Last week 75% of the employees in Boeing’s South Carolina plant voted against unionizing and membership continues to decline in too many other unions despite the fact that they have tens of thousands of nonmembers in bargaining units they already represent. So, we can all benefit from the good news coming out of AFGE’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) unit.
This 40,000 person unit only won union recognition in 2011 and less than five years later it now has over 17,000 dues paying members. While that is only about 40% of the current unit, we can point to dozens of locals in most federal sector unions that have been organized for over 30 years and who barely have a quarter of that percentage of membership. Personally, we would like to see national officers lead a crusade-like campaign to fix that, but there are other ways to have an impact on this problem as well.
Beyond the membership numbers, the AFGE’s TSA Council 100 has gone from having minus $759.00 in assets in 2012 to nearly $400,000.00 today. This growth is an unassailable affirmation of the AFGE approach to union and membership growth. Even years before TSA employees were given the right to organize and bargain, AFGE national committed to this unit creating multiple ways for individuals and small groups of employees at scattered airports around the country to join the union. AFGE let local supporter develop a local union culture as they saw fit—and it is working.
When TSA employees were finally given a legal right to collectively bargain, this early AFGE high impact involvement helped it win the right to represent these employees.
All union supporters owe AFGE a deep debt of gratitude not only for organizing the TSA unit, but also for showing the value of taking a risk to get involved early in very creative ways, nurturing interest and trusting that good ideas for building a union can come up from many people and places
We also want to compliment the TSA union leaders inside Council 100 for the extraordinary work they have done continuing to sign up new members. By carrying their own financial weight inside AFGE they are enabling the federation to do things it may not have been able to afford or fund otherwise.
Sukari Pinnock, AFGE’s Director of Membership at the time, is the person most responsible for the success of AFGE’s TSA organizing campaign. The very idea of organizing TSA employees as AFGE members prior to being able to bargain or grieve, was her idea and was the key to success!
This is a story worthy of much consideration by other labor unions in general, and public sector unions more specifically. For more on how AFGE accomplished this historic organizing feat, read: AFGE’S MINORITY-UNION CAMPAIGN AND THE LARGEST U.S. ORGANIZING VICTORY IN DECADES: TSA WORKERS’ JOURNEY FOR RIGHTS AND UNION REPRESENTATION in the Working USA Journal, Vol. 14, Issue 4 (2011) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-4580.2011.00360.x/abstract