If you think the Transportation Security Administration is pushy and intrusive, just wait until they unionize. April 19 is the last day 44,000 TSA workers vote on whether they will join a union. The results will be announced April 20. A yea vote widely is expected. Workers also are voting on whether to join the American Federation of Government Employees or the National Treasury Employees Union.
Those backing the union say that TSA employees are not paid enough and sometimes are not treated well by management; and that clearer work rules and better treatment would improve job performance, morale and make air travel safer.
However, when the TSA was established in 2002, because of the sensitive nature of its operations it deliberately was not granted collective-bargaining rights by the Republican Bush administration. The FBI, CIA and the military, which also protect national security, are not unionized. The reasoning is that unionization could lead to strikes that either adversely impact air travel or result in poor security checks.
But the Democratic Obama administration changed that rule, insisting that collective bargaining will pertain only to work and benefits rules, not to security concerns; and that TSA employees will not be allowed to go on strike.
"As we have seen, it's also illegal for other safety workers – police and firefighters – to go on strike, but that happens fairly regularly," Patrick Semmens told us; he's legal information director at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which works against compulsory unionism. "Sometimes it's the 'blue flu,' in which officers call in sick. That's how they wield that type of power."
In California, especially, we have seen how the power of government-employee unions has grown so large that their influence dominates many issues before the state Legislature and many local governments. Their wider range of bargaining – over pay levels and benefits – has helped expand budget deficits and led to unsustainable pension obligations.
Finally, we always have thought it was wrong to nationalize airport security. Instead of unionizing the TSA, this would be a good time to privatize it.