Relax. This is not going to be a union-bashing thread. But I’m not happy about the news today that America’s 40,000 Travel Security Officers (TSO’s) have been granted the right to collectively bargain.
Before I get into all the union issues, I feel compelled to highlight what I found to be the most insulting part of this story, political dribble from a cross-eyed partisan hack. The statement below from John Gage, a character I brought up earlier in the week when discussing TSA Administor John Pistole’s decision to deny a Missouri airport the right to opt-out of TSA-administered screening:
Today marks the recognition of a fundamental human right for 40,000 patriotic federal employees who have been disenfranchised since the inception of the agency.
Yes, he actually said that.
The TSA’s organic act denied workers the right to collectively bargain without the authorization of the TSA Administrator. During the Bush Administration, any such push for collective bargaining rights was dead on arrival. But Pistole has been open to the change and President Obama pledged to grant the TSA screeners collective bargaining rights during his 2008 campaign for the White House.
Employees working for intelligence agencies including the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service have no collective barganining rights. Some on Capitol Hill have pounced on this to argue that the TSA, which claims to be a fledgling member of the intelligence community and "vital" to national secuity, fall into a similar category and therefore must not be permitted to collectively bargain over working issues. Yet, fire and police departments are much more vital and they are all heavily unionzed so I have trouble buying that line of argument. Even with the change in policy, TSA employees are still prohibited from striking. I’d actually like to see them go on a strike–maybe a seven year strike…
But unionization is moving forward and any attempts to block it by Congress will be vetoed by President Obama. What are we, the American taxpayers, going to get out of this? The only positive thing I can think of (and hope for) is longevity in employment. Let me explain.
For some reason I run into a lot of new TSA employees at LAX. They’re usually nicer than the three-stipers (yes, the TSA even has rank now…) but often are quite clueless. Despite being mired in a jobless recovery in America, turnover is high in the TSA (ranked 220/224 in terms of best federal agencies to work for) and training costs for new employees cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year. At least with slightly better working conditions the attrition rate will diminish.
The only other positive I can hypothesize is if the union representing the TSA eventually gains enough clout to put a stop to intrusive pat-downs and perhaps even body scanners. While many TSO’s are "true believers" and cling to the flawed notion that security always trumps liberty, most (save for the perverts and the old men groping hot women) hate the invasive pat-down searches. I’d support a union push to prohibit subjecting TSO’s to such horrendous working conditions! And I’d like my own lear jet too as long as I’m dreaming…
But, job protection for bad employees–and any frequent traveler knows that the TSA has more than its fair share–will be the primary consequence of these new collective bargaining rights. Plus, the union will likely demand immediate increases in pay and benefits, which after compromise will still be generous, leading to either a larger budget for the TSA (not likely with TSA-hating Republican John Mica chairing the House Transportation Committee) or an increase in the "9/11 Security Fee" which means frequent travelers will bear the brunt of "keeping our airports safe."
To back this up, here’s another statement from Mr. Gage:
I can guarantee that after AFGE negotiates a contract, TSA will not rank anywhere near the bottom of the Best Places to Work survey, as it currently does at 220 out of 224 federal agencies."
That’s going to cost us…
I am against anything that perpetuates the existence and credibility of the TSA, so today’s news leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I will say part of the issue of professionalism is that even the good officers are not paid nearly enough. When one of the most senior officers at ORD is only paid 42K, it means that we are not going to attract real professionals for the position likely to present a professional experience.
As for the clout of the unions, while the rank and file may be true believers, you know that the pat-downs and full body scans will become the political football for the cynical leadership to try and gain sympathy from the frequent fliers in negotiations.
Exactly. And I’m okay with.
It shows that full body scanners and strip search pat-downs are not essential.