I don't know about you, but I would feel more confident in airport security employees if they had a voice in the workplace.
Right now, the employees at the Transportation Security Administration, TSA, don't have collective bargaining rights.
But disgruntled, unhappy workers may not be the best choice for catching a guy with explosives in his underwear, no?
Some politicians actually think workers without a voice in their own destiny is a good thing. This from Jim DeMint, a Republican senator from South Carolina:
"..collective bargaining would mean that union bosses would represent every TSA screener and security officials would be forced to negotiate with union bosses before making critical and timely security decisions. Basically, the same union bureaucracy that has crippled the American auto industry and made service at Post Offices and the DMV the punch line to jokes could soon be a way of life at America's airports."
When ever any one talks about giving workers a voice and allowing them to bargain for better conditions and better pay, there's always somebody waiting in the wings to talk about how screwed up the Post Office and the DMV are.
According the DeMint, the scary "union bosses" want to do everything they can to kill Americans that choose to use the nation's aviation system.
DeMint used his opposition to collective bargaining as the reason he opposed Obama's pick to head the TSA Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent. You'll be hearing a lot about this today because Southers decided to drop out of consideration for the post yesterday. DeMint has said he suspected Southers supported bargaining rights for TSA workers and opposed his nomination.
Some media are making it sound like DeMint won the battle against worker rights given Southers' withdrawal. But in reality, no matter what even pro-union sites say today, there was more to Southers' background that caused pressure for him to walk.
GOP opposition to Southers escalated rapidly after The Washington Post reported that he had given Congress and the White House misleading information about incidents two decades ago in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database to obtain information about his estranged wife's new boyfriend, possibly in violation of privacy laws.
I'm telling you this because I think the main issue with the TSA is going to get lost in the shuffle -- worker rights. There is legislation out there right now that would given TSA employees such rights.
Clearly, TSA employees could use some help. In a survey on the best places to work in the federal government, the agency ranks among the worst, if not the worst when it comes to pay, benefits, and work-life balance.
Should workers be able to bargain as a group with their employers? Don't we want the most contented, productive workforce we can get, especially in such critical roles as airport security? Or do such rights just create a bunch of good-for-nothing postal or DMV workers as DeMint suggested?
Maybe the poor senator has had trouble getting his mail lately in South Carolina. But typically, let's admit this, the mail is one of the most reliable aspects of our lives. Not that that's a good thing given all the bills that have piled up since the holidays.