THE BLOG

Support Airport Officers This Holiday Season

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

They make us take off our shoes and throw away our water.

I think we can all admit to being frustrated when we're screened to get into an airport terminal.
But nobody questions the value of transportation security officers. It is their job to make sure that we never have another September 11.

Transportation security officers truly are on the front line of defense of our nation's security.

But, thanks to former President Bush, transportation security officers have been second-class employees in the federal government for eight years. Unlike every other worker in the Department of Homeland Security, transportation security officers do not have the right to collectively bargain for better working conditions, fair promotion and evaluation practices and safer workplaces.

So for eight long years, officers have suffered from the highest attrition and injury rates and lowest morale in the federal government. For eight years they've lived with constant fear of management retaliation, of subjective hiring practices, of devalued pensions and the absence of whistleblower protections.

The right wing would have you believe that these officers' rights are being sacrificed in the name of national security. That is a dishonor to the fire fighters, police officers and paramedics who ran up the stairs of the World Trade Center towers to rescue people on Sept. 11. Those heroes were union members, and 403 of them died that day.

But TSOs are fighting for their rights. They are organizing with the American Federation of Government Employees and expect to win bargaining rights when Erroll Southers is confirmed by the Senate to be the next leader of the Transportation Security Administration. Change is on the way.

Last week, officers and 150 workers from a diverse group of industries and trades - teachers, electricians, housekeepers, car wash workers, roofers, grocers, electricians, laborers, ironworkers and flight attendants, to name just a few - marched on Los Angeles International Airport.

For transportation security officers, it was their first real taste of the power of solidarity, of workers in all industries standing together for the common good. When we marched past terminals, officers who could not march because they were working greeted us with thumbs up and smiles. One officer even cried.

So as you prepare to fly home this holiday season, be sure to let these officers know that you support them and their right to form a union. And try not to get too upset when you take off your shoes.

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