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Atlanta Local Fights Airport Takeover Bill

Members visited the Georgia State Capitol last month to persuade state lawmakers to reject SB 131. Photo Credit: AFSCME Local 1644.
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ATLANTA – A Georgia lawmaker wants the state to take control of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, but members of AFSCME Local 1644 want the world’s busiest airport to remain in the city’s hands.

Twenty members of Local 1644 rallied at the state capital on March 26 against Senate Bill 131 (SB 131), which has passed the state Senate and is pending in the Georgia House of Representatives. The bill would allow a “state takeover” of the Hartsfield-Jackson airport from the City of Atlanta, a move the city strongly opposes.

Local 1644 President Tracey Thornhill is urging members to write their state representatives and ask them to reject the bill if it reaches the floor of the House. He said SB 131 would allow “an unprecedented takeover that goes against local control and is a horrible bill for workers.”

“There is nothing to show that a governance body created by the state could do anything to smooth airport operations, but there is plenty to show that a state takeover would hurt the 60,000 workers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport,” Thornhill said.

In an email to members, Local 1644 Executive Director Meta Embry amplified the need for them to take action.

 “Georgians have shown that we don't like state takeovers of entities controlled by local government. In 2016, we rejected a state takeover of our schools. Now it is time to show our representatives that we are against any state takeover of a local entity,” Embry wrote. “Whether you live in Atlanta or Albany, any community’s local resources should be under the jurisdiction of that local community.

Local 1644 members have fought this bill since it was first heard in the Senate Transportation Committee. SB 131 would create the Georgia Major Airport Authority, which would be filled with members appointed by state legislators to oversee functions at Hartsfield-Jackson. Supporters cite past corruption issues, especially in the procurement and vendor-selection processes, as reasons why the state takeover is necessary.

City of Atlanta leadership has fought this bill every step of the way. The administration has argued that Hartsfield-Jackson became the world’s busiest airport under the city’s watch and is efficiently run.

In 2018, former Gov. Nathan Deal joined the effort to fight the takeover movement by circulating a two-page memo opposing it. Current Gov. Brian Kemp remains silent on the matter.