-By Warner Todd Huston
Everywhere you turn the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) is getting lambasted. If it isn’t people refusing to abide by TSA directions, it’s stories of a “backlash against body scanners” because of the abusive treatment that TSA employees are doling out to travelers. People are becoming fed up with the whole edifice. But imagine how much worse this situation will get if the TSA is allowed to unionize?
Well, if Obama has his way this is exactly what will happen. Evidence his Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled last Friday that the TSA could, indeed, vote on union representation.
This decision opens the possibilities that the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union could vie to represent the 50,000 employees of the TSA. Many TSA security officers have already joined one or another of these unions but law prohibits them from collective bargaining at this time. Perhaps early next year this new ruling will allow the TSA officers to choose which of the two unions will exclusively represent them.
So, we have TSA security officers already abusing their positions and as much as molesting travelers under color of authority. Recently a 3-year-old girl was manhandled in a TSA search at an airport. Why were they body searching a three-year-old? The TSA claims it is “the rules” that are at fault. But whether the “rules” are well formulated or not, whether the TSA agents involved were adequately trained or not, the addition of a union will make matter worse.
Imagine trying to confront TSA abuses once a union steps in to prevent any sort of management of employees at all! Plus a unionized TSA would hamper security by taking all flexibility out of the service as union rules settle in to prevent management from making needed changes to reflect a fluid security situation.
There are other dangers that a unionized TSA would present the traveling public. Every time new security rules are needed, for instance, sensitive security intelligence would have to be shared with the union possibly damaging national security.
Additionally, hundreds of those same security agents would be removed from their security positions and turned into union reps and contract negotiators taking experienced officers from the necessary work of security. Once a union is formed these union staff positions will be filled by TSA employees.
Also, TSA managers would no longer be able to reward screeners and security officers for high performance on the job as union rules would prevent merit raises and recognition. This will bring down the level of competence in the TSA just when complaints that the service is already performing badly are growing.
TSA employees should not be allowed to unionize. Collective bargaining will make our airports less responsive to a changing security situation, less safe, and far less friendly to travelers.