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TSA Workers Gain Right to Join Most Pointless Union Ever

There’s a rare bit of good news for TSA’s army of security screeners, who are best-known for being the first federal workers to successfully steal the mantle of “America’s most-disliked government employees” away from IRS auditors: they get to join a union!

The head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Friday gave the nation’s 40,000-plus airport screeners the opportunity to engage in limited collective bargaining, pressing ahead on a hot-button issue that has separated Republicans and Democrats since the creation of the TSA after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Congress prohibited airport screeners from collective bargaining when it created the TSA in 2003, arguing that managers needed the agency to be nimble in responding to the changing terrorists threats. But it gave the TSA administrator the authority to allow collective bargaining if he determined it would not hurt national security.

On Friday, TSA Administrator John Pistole announced he would allow airport screeners to select a union for collective bargaining, or to forgo bargaining. In a statement, Pistole said sitting down at a bargaining table with screeners would not jeopardize the nation.

Unions, of course, are known in our history textbooks as the pioneers of promoting workers’ rights in America by negotiating things like pay, working conditions, and the like with thuggish, greedy employers. So, of course, TSA’s union won’t actually be allowed to do any of these things:

[T]he paper outlining his decision precludes negotiations on security policies, pay, pensions and compensation, proficiency testing, job qualifications and discipline standards. It also will prohibit screeners from striking or engaging in work slowdowns.

So, apparently TSA screeners will be able to sign away a portion of their paychecks to a union to… send it to Democratic candidates for federal office or something, because that would seem to be about the only thing the union would have the power to do in the service of its members. I suppose if you were trying to establish a system to help finance Democratic campaigns for Congress and the White House, this union might be a good idea, but I’m at a loss as to how it will do anything at all for rank-and-file TSA employees, or the traveling public for that matter.

But since TSA screening is here to stay—the desires of the traveling public, airlines, and airports be damned—at least there’ll be plenty of employees’ dues to collect for the lucky winners of the organizing drive.

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About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi.

Comments

  1. MM says:

    Well, despite the fact that many people (me included) consider the TSA little more than security theater, we may be many but we we are still the minority. People are, for the most part, OK with our security setup, the airlines are surely not interested in assuming the liability or the costs either.

    But hey, if you make it sound like everyone is against this except for a select few, it makes the TSA seem even more outrageous.

    Me? I heard that the TSA is only supported by Obama cronies, Charles Manson and Snooki.

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  2. Tano says:

    “But since TSA screening is here to stay—the desires of the traveling public, airlines, and airports be damned…”

    What does that mean? The public supports the TSA. supports full body scans, and supports doing patdowns of those not scanned. Its in the 60-70% range.
    And you can be certain that the airlines do not want the responsibility (and hence the potential liability) to do this work.

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  3. I’d imagine a poll of people who’ve actually been in frequent contact with TSA (the “traveling public”) would find a rather lower approval rating than the general public, although I’d be happy to be corrected on that point.

    As for the airlines and the airports, I’d imagine they’d prefer to have more customers – both flying on planes and using concessions beyond security alike. And they did have responsibility for security prior to 9/11 and (to my recollection) didn’t exactly clamor for a government takeover.

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  4. DC_Loser says:

    [T]he paper outlining his decision precludes negotiations on security policies, pay, pensions and compensation, proficiency testing, job qualifications and discipline standards. It also will prohibit screeners from striking or engaging in work slowdowns.

    That’s true of any government employee union. You can’t bargain for any of those things as they are set by Congress or by OPM as uniform standards for all government employees. And of course no strikes, since we know what happened after PATCO tried it. But what a union CAN do to help a member is to represent a member before a disciplinary hearing, or to challenge a ruling made by management. It can represent the member before a hearing, all the way up to the Merit System Protection Board in cases involving disciplinary issues, or to provide legal representation for other cases of interest to its members. May not look like much, but a lot of times the government or management will think twice about doing something if the union threatens to weigh in.

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  5. James Joyner says:

    Pretty much what DC Loser said. Additionally, it’s probably good for workers and management alike to have a system for aggregating bitches, gripes, suggestions, and whatnot and filtering it through the chain rather than have individual workers doing it. Likewise, upper management can go to the union leadership and discuss new policies that are in the mill to get feedback and perhaps find a better way of doing things.

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  6. PJ says:

    @Chris Lawrence:
    “I’d imagine a poll of people who’ve actually been in frequent contact with TSA (the “traveling public”) would find a rather lower approval rating than the general public, although I’d be happy to be corrected on that point.”

    I think you’re right on that. But then I also think that people having been treated badly by the police would give the police a lower rating, health-care reform would have a higher approval rating among those who have been denied coverage or found out that their coverage doesn’t cover what they believed it would cover, and people having contracted E. coli from contaminated food would also be more in favor of measurements to stop outbreaks.

    Point is, you don’t poll a subset.

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  7. jwest says:

    Good ideas like unionizing the TSA make people want to elect more democrats.

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  8. Davebo says:

    And they did have responsibility for security prior to 9/11 and (to my recollection) didn’t exactly clamor for a government takeover.

    No, they didn’t. Nor have they ever.

    So lets review. TSA union, exactly like every other government employee union.

    Airport security, went from the responsibility of the airport to the feds.

    I’d say this posts epic fail was based on Chris’ own misconceptions. Aggies, what are you gonna do?

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  9. Agan says:

    Government jobs. That is all democrats create. Jobs that create more democrat voters. It’s like breeding dogs and feeding them on dogs…producing nothing but dog crap.

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  10. Agan says:

    Forgot to mention,our taxes pay for the kennel…

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  11. DC Loser says:

    As I recall, the TSA was created under the Bush Administration.

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