Unionization Bad For TSA, Worse For Passengers

by Russ Pohl on November 16, 2012 · 3 comments

in Features, Labor, Mobility, Politics as Usual, Precaution & Risk

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Along with the rising cost of bag fees, the most notorious nuisance air travelers must endure before reaching the terminal is the security checkpoint line. Travelers must frantically search and strip themselves and their baggage of anything that is made of metal or contains a certain amount of liquid. Depending on the airport you are at, after removing your shoes, belts, watches, and cell phones, travelers then walk into a full body scanner, which creates a semi-nude X-ray photo meant to detect any dangerous weapons within the travelers clothes. Whether these machines are effective or not is another issue entirely. (Earlier this year, CEI filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit questioning the legality of the government’s deployment of these scanners.)

Of course, if you planned out your trip to the airport ahead of time, hopefully you can put your belt on and tie your shoes quickly enough to make it to your flight.

So why do air travelers put up with this security routine? According to Gallup, while many Americans question the effectiveness of these screening methods, 54 percent of Americans say that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the government agency within the Department of Homeland Security that oversees airport security, is doing a good job at keeping air travelers safe.

Despite this passive acceptance of the TSA, the agency has been broiled in controversy that could possibly explain why Americans question the agencies security methods. ABC News has recently released a list of the top U.S. airports for TSA employee theft firings and an investigation into the prevalence of these theft cases.

While these cases of theft show that air travelers are probably not being adequately protected by the TSA, those who work within the agency seem to be more concerned with their own job security than the security of the passengers.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the TSA ratified a collective bargaining agreement on November 9, 2012, unionizing the TSA’s 44,000 employees for the first time since the agency’s creation after 9/11. According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, this collective bargaining agreement will give TSA agents “more say in what they wear on the job, the shifts they work and the time off they take, whether they can change from part-time to full-time work or back.”

So for what reason would the TSA want to unionize?

“It will improve morale,” said AFGE President J. David Cox in a statement. “This is important because low morale leads to unsafe levels of attrition in an agency where a stable, professional workforce of career employees is vital to its national security mission.”

When airport security was nationalized in 2001, the Bush administration was against the TSA setting work rules through collective bargaining, since it posed potential security risks. U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) echoed this stance, saying that while the intention of the agency was to be on par with the CIA and FBI when it came to national security, the TSA has been “perpetuating a charade as a premier federal agency as they continue to fail to perform background checks on their employees, provide inadequate levels of basic security training and are not seriously focused on reprimanding or retraining screeners who receive failing grades in detecting threats.”

Maybe this is because the TSA is more concerned with its morale rather than the security of airline passengers.

Richard November 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm

This is just another attack on employees and their Unions. It could be that the TSA employees have been intimidated and treated unfairly since the creation of the TSA, that they are still concerned that nothing will change. TSA managers and supervisors have created the workplace environment that is contributing to the feeling that the employees care more about their job than protecting the traveling public. Quit blaming the hard working men and women of TSA. Do an indepth review of the working conditions at TSA and you may have your eyes opened.

Lee November 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

This article is pretty crappy. “Oh, some TSA workers stole some shit, they’re all lazy deadbeats.” “Oh, the TSA unionized, they’re all lazy deadbeats.” “The lazy deadbeats help the terrorists win, we’re all going to die.”

I mean really, this is a straight up badly done article.

Marc Scribner November 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Lee,

The issue, as has been repeatedly raised by Mueller and Stewart in their comprehensive risk and cost-benefit assessment of threat responses post-9/11, is that TSA already spends far too much money on protocol that has essentially zero risk benefit. This will only get worse under stultifying collective bargaining agreements.

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