Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unionization at TSA -They Just Won’t Learn

Unionization at TSA -They Just Won’t Learn

The public service unions have been blamed as one of the primary causes for the fiscal crises in states from California to New York. Cumulative obligations for pensions, benefits and excessively high salaries have contributed significantly to the deficits which are breaking the budgets and causing economic chaos. In spite of that, the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has given the 40,000-plus airport screeners the opportunity to engage in limited collective bargaining.

The TSA administrator has the authority to decide whether or not screeners should be allowed to engage in collective bargaining. Under the Bush administration TSA chiefs opted not to endorse bargaining, saying it would impede their ability to protect the public.
Now TSA Administrator John Pistole announced he would allow airport screeners to select a union for collective bargaining, or to forgo bargaining. "The safety of the traveling public is our top priority and we will not negotiate on security," Pistole said.

The announcement is consistent with a recent Federal Labor Relations Authority decision to allow a vote granting sole union representation authority to a single union. The FLRA has tentatively scheduled a vote for March 9 through April 19 to determine which union will represent airport screeners. It will also give the screeners the option of having no union represent them.
The unions most likely to be in consideration for the job are the American Federation of Government Employees, part of the AFL-CIO, and the National Treasury Employees Union. Quite naturally both unions called Pistole's decision good news.

As you might expect the reaction in Congress fell along party lines. "I want to commend Administrator Pistole for taking this positive step," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. "Collective bargaining does not diminish our security -- it can actually enhance workforce productivity and TSA's mission." He neglected to say just how…

On the other side of the fence, Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, called the move "President Obama's biggest give to organized labor."

During the formation of the TSA, Congress limited airport screener's unionization powers, saying managers needed flexibility to address changing terrorist threats. Bush administration officials later cited the 2006 liquid bomb plot, when the TSA rapidly changed restrictions to prevent terrorists from smuggling explosive liquids on passenger aircraft. TSA officials say they did not have to consult with union representatives before changing screening protocols and work hours. Supporters of collective bargaining powers claim that numerous other law enforcement agencies have broad union rights that do not hinder security.

Barack Obama has always been a big supporter of unions, despite their devastating effect on the public debt. In fact as a presidential candidate he promised to support collective bargaining for airport screeners. In a letter to a union chief just two weeks before the 2008 election, Obama wrote that if he was elected, "I will work to ensure that TSOs [Transportation Security Officers] have collective bargaining rights." He said he would make it a "priority for my administration."

I believe (hope) that the Republicans will jump on this issue and move to obstruct its implementation right away. At one time unions in this country were very necessary for protecting American workers from abuse and exploitation. In theory they still serve a beneficial and necessary function. Unfortunately the reality is that they have become too large and too powerful, strangling business and public services with bloated obligations and excesses. Until this issue is faced (and that is a major mountain to climb considering their political might) further unionization, especially on the taxpayers dime, is ludicrous.

Live Long and Prosper...

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