Airport screeners vote for union

”Davidson”

The overtime battle between the two largest federal employee labor organizations finally ends Tuesday, with the close of a month-long runoff union election for transportation security officers.

With 44,000 officers -- they screen people and baggage at the nation’s airports -- in the bargaining unit, this election has been closely watched inside and outside of government. It is the largest union organizing effort in the federal government’s history and the largest current labor organizing campaign in the country.

There was a sense of excitement that an exclusive bargaining agent would at last be selected as the last day of voting approached and a clear feeling of relief that this whole process is almost over.

“At this point, everybody just wants this to be done,” said Kathy Phillips, a lead TSO and president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local at Dulles International Airport.

Employees are ready, said National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley to “move forward and bargain for their first contract.” The Federal Labor Relations Authority will announce the winner on Thursday.

AFGE and NTEU have poured lots of money, people and other resources in to the campaign, probably more than they ever intended. As big as the victory will be for one, the disappointment for the other will be huge.

Both organizations have worked aggressively, including some negative campaigning, to get out their vote for the runoff. Neither union was thrilled with the turnout last time. It was a particular disappointment to AFGE, which had claimed some 13,000 members. And a loss certainly would not help Kelley’s campaign to be reelected president.

federaldiary@washpost.com

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

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