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AFGE seeks to represent screeners (Read More…)

By Chris Strohm CongressDaily February 22, 2010

The largest federal employee union filed a petition on Monday requesting an election to represent about 40,000 airport security screeners—a direct challenge to Republicans in Congress who argue that giving those workers collective bargaining rights will hurt national security.

In announcing its filing with the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the American Federation of Government Employees asserted that more than 30 percent of the screeners employed by the Transportation Security Administration and working in over 100 airports want the union to become their sole representative.

The election would be a critical step toward winning collective bargaining rights for TSA screeners, which they have never had since the agency was founded in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“We are going to continue our quest for collective bargaining and we know we are going to get it. But you have to do an election anyway,” AFGE president John Gage said on Monday. “We’re just not going to take no for an answer.”

The issue of giving screeners collective bargaining rights was thrust into the public spotlight recently when several Republican senators opposed President Obama’s nominee to lead TSA because they feared he would support collective bargaining for the agency workforce.

“TSA screeners can already join unions, but collective bargaining would force TSA officials to ask union bosses for permission to make critical security changes,” argued Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.

The nominee, Erroll Southers, withdrew from consideration in January. Gage fired back at DeMint and other GOP senators on Monday.

“They seem to equate union membership with something that is adverse to national security and that’s an insult to all of labor and all of labor is standing up to that insult,” he said, noting that the Border Patrol and many other law enforcement agencies have collective bargaining rights.

The Obama administration has not yet found a new nominee for TSA.

But AFGE’s petition to hold an election for screeners adds a twist to efforts to confirm a new administrator. The nominee is likely to face pointed questions from Republican senators during confirmation hearings about the organizing effort.

Gage expressed frustration over the long process to find a new administrator. “We’re frustrated by the lack of having a strong leadership at TSA. The agency desperately needs it. So we just decided to step out on this,” he said.

The union is also petitioning Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to grant screeners collective bargaining rights.

“I think the administration has some options. I’m not going to speak for them,” Gage said. “They can speak for themselves about the secretary and her involvement in this.”

AFGE is holding its annual legislative conference this week in Washington and union officials plan to meet with lawmakers on several issues, including collective bargaining rights for screeners.

The union plans a rally Tuesday specifically to support bargaining rights, where Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., are expected to speak.

The union’s petition to hold elections was filed with the Washington Region of the Federal Labor Relations Authority. AFGE officials said the agency is not under a deadline to act on the petition, but they hope to get a quick response.

If the petition is denied, the union will appeal to the FLRA board, Gage said.

Posted by Admin on 02/22 at 05:15 PM

Workers United and Rival UNITE HERE Fight Over Aramark Employees in Pittsburgh (Read More)

February 18, 2010 By Michael Bagen
Pittsburgh—A press conference Downtown led to confrontation today as members of Workers United were met by members of rival union UNITE HERE.

The confrontation took place outside Mellon Arena (a.k.a. “the Igloo”) on Thursday when reps of Unite HERE interrupted a press conference of Worker’s United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The conference was called to draw attention to the Friday announcement by Aramark, the firm who manages Mellon Arena’s service industry.

On February 12th, Aramark announced that they will not be honoring the Mellon Arena contract at the new CONSOL Energy Arena. The igloo’s workers will lose their existing wage and benefit standards. They will also have to reapply for their new jobs at CONSOL as new employees, losing not only their seniority but their job security in their move across the street. This announcement was made available to employees via letter distributed before closing on Friday prior to the pre-Olympic lull.

Representatives of Workers United have called this an attempty by Aramark to weaken or remove the union, lower wages and reduce benefits.

“Its very unsettling,” said G. Ryin Gaines, a seven year employee and Suite Attendant at Mellon Arena. Gains pointed to the timing as a step taken to avoid any backlash at the announcement of Igloo employee job security being effectively nullified as of the new arena’s completion. Gains is an affiliate of Worker’s United.

But who works at the Mellon Arena; Workers United, or United Here? The answer comes from a March 2009 split by the UNITE HERE from the Pennsylvania Labor Board. A contract signed in September 2006 with Mellon Arena names three parties in the agreement UNITE HERE, Local #57, and Joint Labor Board.

Prior to the signing of the agreement the Pennsylvania Joint Board was the Pennsylvania Joint Board of UNITE HERE, according to Michelle Winbush, a shop steward of UNITE HERE. According to Winbush, the SEIU began exerting influence over the Joint Board, convincing Local #57 employees that they would be better represented by the SEIU.

This meshes somewhat with the explanation of Western PA Labor Board rep Sam Williamson, who blamed the split on high-level mismanagement and grievances resulting in the schism. Winbush stated that the approach itself was part of what generated the bad blood currently between the two groups.

What it boils down to is the question: what union represents Local #57 in the igloo? The joint board is now dominated by the SEIU, and according to Williamson any dispute relating to the contract goes through the Joint Board, Worker’s United, and the SEIU. But UNITE HERE still claims the traditional role as the representatives at Mellon Arena and in the Igloo Club therein (they are on two separate contracts).

Despite this issue, both unions were disturbed by the Aramark announcement.

“Waling on eggshells,” as Gains described it.

Beatrice Binion, a 73 year old UNITE HERE member and food service employee of Mellon Arena will have to apply as a new employee at CONSOL Energy Arena. She has been working at Mellon Arena for 46 years. The Igloo itself has been there for 49 (opened September, 1961).

Posted by Admin on 02/19 at 09:35 AM