As of Thursday, August 2, 2012, the Transportation Security Administration has agreed to unionize. The agency, best known for groping and offending Americans as we attempt to fly from one part of the country to the other, has agreed to allow the American Federation of Government Employees to unionize its workers.
From the Facebook page of the American Federation of Government Employees, the official announcement:
“For 10 long years AFGE has fought hard so that Transportation Security Officers would have collective bargaining rights. We have often looked back and wondered why it was taking so long,” said AFGE National President John Gage. “Today we begin to look forward.”
“This collective bargaining agreement will better the working lives of 45,000 hard-working, dedicated employees, and that’s a fantastic feeling,” AFGE TSA Council 100 President Kim Kraynak-Lambert said. “TSOs come to work every day in the face of intense public and congressional scrutiny and, to the best of their ability, protect this nation from terrorist attacks. Now we can look forward to new rights and new working conditions, and a chance to form a true labor-management partnership. And, contrary to some of the misinformation circulating about TSA, an agreement will not adversely affect security – security related matters were strictly excluded from negotiations. In fact, this agreement will strengthen our ability to carry out TSA’s vital mission of protecting the American people.”
“What this contract will do is provide for increased uniformity on fair treatment and the other issues important to employees across the nation’s airports,” Gage added. “Both parties believe the agreement will also provide much needed schedule flexibility. Improvements in working conditions will also benefit both TSA and the officers by fostering a family-friendly workplace where the employees have greater job satisfaction and feel supported in performing their important security work.”
Of course, the TSA workforce will have to vote on whether or not to ratify the collective bargaining agreement. According to the aforementioned Facebook announcement, that process will be taking place in the coming months. In the meantime, so many jokes can be made about this. Off the top of my head…
1. Fostering a family-friendly workplace. Does that mean no mothers, grandmothers, and children will be groped?
2. Does the TSA’s “important security work” include protection from sexual harassment by federal employees?
3. I’m curious about these “new rights” that TSA employees will get. Will those new rights be given in exchange for giving law-abiding Americans our rights back?
4. “New working conditions,” huh? Given that at least one estimate has said the TSA at one point had failed screening tests 70% of the time, perhaps those new working conditions could include actually finding at least one person who is a potential terrorist threat?
5. From my buddy Nick R. Brown, who is far more clever than I am: “If they strike, do we get to opt out of gropings?”
In all seriousness, the TSA needs significant reform, but this isn’t it. We really don’t need further complications or expense within an agency that continually and unnecessarily violates too many constitutional rights to keep track of. I personally support eliminating its existence entirely, though I admit to not having a cohesive replacement strategy in mind. Last year Ed suggested the TSA continue to look at how Israel conduct its airport security, though a former co-worker with expertise in the airline industry told me that what Israel does would not work for America. Any suggestions in the comments as to how to phase out the TSA and replace it with something better? Or should the TSA stay, and merely be significantly modified?
[Update] A number of comments are talking about the unionization, and asking how it came to be, since the Bush Administration hadn’t allowed unionization. I called James Sherk of The Heritage Foundation to ask him about this, and he explained that the decision to collectively bargain or not has been left up to the Administrator of the TSA. James pointed out that while workers have a right to join a union because of free association, the question always remains as to whether the employer will bargain with that union. Obviously, under Bush, no Administrator was going to do so. Once President Obama got his pick for Administrator through the Senate, however, he instituted collective bargaining in the agency.