Airport security screeners have ratified the first contract with the Transportation Security Administration, a pact that among other things overhauls their pay for performance system to emphasize actual on the job performance over certification tests.

Passenger screeners and associated employees voted 17,326 to 1,774 in favor of a contract agreed to in principle by TSA and American Federation of Government Employees in August.

AFGE is proud that TSA workers finally have a union contract that will improve their working lives and bring stability to the workforce, AFGE president J. David Cox said in a statement.

TSA was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with several special personnel policies, including management discretion over whether to bargain with screeners. During the George W. Bush administration, AFGE and the National Treasury Employees Union organized locals within TSA, but in the absence of bargaining rights their role was limited to activities such as representing employees in appeals of disciplinary actions.

In early 2011, TSA administrator John S. Pistole decided to allow bargaining, although over a more limited range of topics than those allowable for other federal employees eligible for union representation. AFGE meanwhile defeated NTEU for the right to represent a national bargaining unit of more than 40,000 workers.

In addition to revising the performance pay system, the three-year contract sets policies in areas including scheduling of shifts and vacation time, uniform allowances and dress codes. "The completion of today's agreement between TSA and AFGE is a milestone in our relationship with our workforce and AFGE," Pistole said in a statement. "Together, we will continue to secure our nation's transportation systems and keep the traveling public safe."

After over a decade of struggling for basic workplace rights, transportation security officers were finally given the opportunity to vote on a contract that ensures that their voice will be heard in the workplace. This contract will improve both morale and workplace conditions," said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (Miss.), ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee.