AFGE represents about 45,000 transportation security officers, federal employees who screen passengers and baggage at almost all of the nation’s airports. At 16 airports, often smaller facilities, the screening duties generally are done by nonunion employees of private firms. Airports in San Francisco and Kansas City, which have private, unionized screeners, are exceptions.
Republicans in Congress have repeatedly pushed for more privatization. AFGE and its Democratic allies have constantly pushed back. The Sacramento decision is an important victory in labor’s effort to combat privatization efforts generally.
“AFGE is very pleased that the Sacramento Board recognizes the value in a federal workforce at TSA [Transportation Security Administration] and has revoked its previous approval for privatization,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said. “The Sacramento airport authority’s attempt to abandon its public servants in favor of corporations with only profit in mind was short-sighted at best. There simply are some functions too important to be left to companies that would be unaccountable to the American people, and securing American skies is definitely one of them.”
“It was a contract workforce that gave us 9/11,” he added. “It wasn’t a union workforce.” At the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the airports used private contractors to screen passengers.
The board voted 4 to 1 to cancel its request to TSA, made last January, for private contractors. At the time, the now-retired airport director was instrumental in convincing the board that a private contractor would improve the scheduling of screeners, according to Supervisor Phil Serna.
But during the past year, there was “very little evidence produced . . . that there is any advantage to privatizing the screeners,” Serna said. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) study helped convince supervisors that there was no need to upset the status quo. Supervisor Susan Peters, the lone vote in favor of continuing the privatization process, could not be reached for comment.
During the year since the board initially decided to seek privatization, AFGE rallied its allies in organized labor and lobbied supervisors, city council members and state legislators in an attempt to block the plan.
“We had several meetings with the individual supervisors during the past year,” said James Mudrock, president of Local 1230 at the Sacramento airport. “This all took place over a long period of time, but we continued to stay on it. We had to change some minds.”
The union initially had one supervisor whose support was certain and another who was a maybe, so “we felt we had to do some work on the others,” Mudrock added.