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  • Unionizing TSA Is A Security Mistake

    Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has placed a hold on President Obama’s nominee for Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Erroll Southers. Since the attempted underwear bombing, many pundits have attacked DeMint for this on the grounds that the agency needs permanent leadership. DeMint should ignore these criticisms: his actions have protected American travelers.

    Current law gives the TSA Administrator discretion over whether to collectively bargain with airport security screeners. The TSA has determined that collective bargaining would endanger the safety of America’s air passengers. TSA screeners may belong to a union, and the TSA withholds union dues for screeners who request it. But the union may not collectively negotiate how TSA screeners perform their jobs. However, Southers may change this policy – to the detriment of the American people.

    The TSA has avoided collective bargaining for good reason: the bureaucracy and delays of collective bargaining hurt the agency’s ability to defend Americans. The TSA needs the ability to rush screeners to high-risk locations and modify screening procedures at a moment’s notice. Following the attempted U.K. airline bombings, for example, the TSA overhauled its procedures in less than 12 hours to prevent terrorists from smuggling liquid explosives onto any U.S. flights.

    The TSA cannot spend weeks or months negotiating new procedures or personnel assignments, as collective bargaining requires. Other government unions have strongly resisted changing established procedures. The National Treasury Employees Union, for example, successfully brought the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before arbitration for breaking its contract after the CBP changed security procedures without first collectively negotiating them.

    Other countries that allow collective bargaining over security procedures have found that it harms national security. A 2006 labor dispute in Toronto allowed 250,000 passengers to board their planes with minimal or no security screening. As one security expert commenting on the Toronto experience dryly noted “If terrorists had known that in those three days that their baggage wasn’t going to be searched, that would have been bad.”

    Collective bargaining also prevents the TSA from putting the right employee in the right post. Today, airport screeners earn their promotions through merit and competence, not seniority. This allows the TSA to assign the best screeners to the most sensitive posts and to keep screeners motivated despite the tedium of their jobs.

    Government unions insist on seniority-based promotions in collective bargaining, however. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has already sued the TSA for laying off workers who performed poorly on tests of skill without taking into account their seniority. America needs the best and most motivated screeners in the most sensitive positions, not those on the job the longest.

    The last thing the TSA needs as it examines how to prevent more explosive from being smuggled onto future flights is worrying about whether the AFGE will agree to the new security countermeasures and what the union wants in return. However, President Obama promised the AFGE – a strong supporter of his campaign – that his nominee to head the TSA would begin collective bargaining. Erroll Southers has ducked this question, meaning he almost certainly would help the President deliver on this promise. That helps the union movement expand, but puts American lives at risk. So Sen. DeMint has placed Southers’ nomination on hold.

    Sen. DeMint deserves praise for preventing such an ill-advised change in policy from going through under the radar. By preventing the TSA from being tied down in a sea of collectively bargained red-tape he has improved the safety of American travelers. The Senate should carefully consider and debate the Southers nomination. The stakes–American lives–are too high for them to ignore.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    21 Responses to Unionizing TSA Is A Security Mistake

    1. Stirling, Huntingdon says:

      I'm sure if there is a "Union" involved in this it will be SEIU, and ACORN that will be a part of it (both of which are questionable organizations). I applaud Senator DeMint for standing up for our national security concerns.

    2. Linda Goodman says:

      Let me get this right, the TSA layed off workers who performed poorly or were unskilled at their jobs, and now they are being sued because they did not take into consideration the seniority of said employees. Folks, it does not matter how long you've been at a job, if you are unskilled and unproductive, you need to go!! Especially in a job where a mistake or bad judgment means putting lives at risk. If this is the way our country is going, GOD HELP US ALL!!

    3. Dave, Laguna Niguel says:

      Ever heard of General Motors? Bankrupted by UNIONS! The bail out money for GM? Went to pay off the UNIONS who support Obama in his SOCIALIST EMPIRE. Wherever you find strife in a company you will find the UNIONS at fault! Unions shoud be dismantled and outlawed, they have outgrown their usefullness. You will regret the day you ever heard the name Obama! Guaranteed!

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    6. Tamsen Altanta says:

      DeMint appears to lead the charge in most of the fights…perhaps the rest of the "conservative" congressmen could grow a pair like DeMint

    7. Bobbie Jay says:

      How is unionizing the TSA in the best interest of the people? QUALIFICATIONS ARE A REQUIREMENT. THE TSA SHOULD SUE THEM! And so should the tax payers. Rightful justice.


    8. Bobbie Jay says:

      This question should always be asked about government unions. Because they have not an acceptable answer. Unions are in opposition of the tax payers. union removal from all facilities to do with safety, protection and security OF, FOR AND BY THE PEOPLE, is appropriate and necessary.

    9. UNRR says:

      This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 1/6/2010, at The Unreligious Right

    10. John Roane Sarasota says:

      TSA employees and their supporters in Congress want TSA employees to be treated similar to public school teachers and their unions. Just look at what happened to our public schools.

    11. Tim Az says:

      Of course Mao-Bama wants TSA unionized so he can discipline the American citizenry with terrorist attacks when they oppose him. This would also create more voters for liberals along with more campaign contributions. Liberals could also use these union thugs to create civil unrest something they demonstrated last summer with SEIU and ACORN.

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    13. philip says:


    14. Ben C, Ann Arbor says:

      Unions evolved when employers were manufactureers creating wealth. The steel and auto industries are the model. Unions successfully negotiated a "piece of the pie" for themselves – and in the beginning rightfully so. But government employees do not create wealth. The government does not create wealth. Just as tenure has become obsolete (religious persecution stopped a long time ago), unions have become obsolete. Today their goal is to gain permanent employeement regardless of performance. The TSA should not become unionized and in fact, the other government unions should consider themselves as "professional groups", not self serving atangonists to those of us who pay their salaries.

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    16. Lynn B. DeSpain says:

      Absolutely nothing within Federal and State Powers should ever be Unionized. That creates two bosses for the employees, and with the Government serving the Citizens, the Citizens are the only body with the Right to elect the Bosses!

    17. Drew Page, IL says:

      To Linda Goodman – You are 100% correct on your assessment. Within a union system the only thing that matters is paying your dues, increasing your membership (dues)and increasing the campaign contributions (from dues) to the politicians who support your existence and growth.

      Consider Mr. Obama and his relationship with SEIU. When Governor Schwartzenegger attempted to cut spending in California, he proposed to layoff a number of state employees, many of whom were SEIU union members. The White House informed the Governor that if he did in fact lay-off those SEIU employees, he risked losing Stimulus money coming from Washington. Those SEIU employees were not laid-off. Mr. Obama sold his soul (if he has one) to SEIU and ACORN.

      Regardless of their competence, or even their interest in doing a job correctly, union members are expected to fight against a management decision to fire an incompetent employee. Imagine the consequences of a unionized armed forces here in the U.S.

      Unions throughout their history, have served an important function in the American labor force. They have brought about improved and necessary safety standards in the workplace; they have brought a higher standard of living and security to the labor force; and they have proved to be a force in giving voice to the workers in dealing with management and government. They have helped to strengthen America.

      But there has also been another side to unionism. With unions, just like with the government, leaders get elected to represent their constituency. And just like in government, the concept of "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" applies equally to the unions. Once power of the many is consolidated into the hands of the few, the potential for corruption is as close as your next breath and all too often, those with the power start considering 'what's in it for me?'. Longtime union members know that their own leadership is just as likely to sell them out for personal gain as are government politicians.

    18. Rayford Davenport says:

      If TSA forms a union it will be a bureaucracy within bureaucracy.Unions set minimum standards.It doesn't matter that someone wants to work harder.

    19. CM - 79 says:

      I work Harder than most people and I am in A UNion and proud of it. Unions have built the middle class, if there were no Unions the Non Union worker would make a third of what they make now.

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    21. Damian Rodriguez says:

      I understand some people concern over union. I am serving my country proud in Afghanistan and will do it again. However, because TSA has no collective barganing rights, I loose out on two raises which other Federal employees are entitled to when deployed. We need to look at all sides before we jump into judgement. TSA employees need some protection……GOD BLESS THE USA!!

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