TSA workers have one of the worst jobs in America. Reports and surveys by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general show morale among TSA workers is at record lows for the federal workforce and jeopardizes airport security. "It is no secret that the morale of the TSA workforce is terrible as a result of favoritism, a lack of fair and respectful treatment from many managers, poor and unhealthy conditions in some airports, poor training and testing protocols and a poor pay system" says American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage. In addition to the poor treatment by their employers, TSA workers are the scorn of airline travelers everywhere as a result of the invasive procedure which they are forced to perform.
The only thing more outrageous than TSA's policy of invasive procedures is the fact the TSA workers are legally barred from collectively bargaining. As a result of a Bush-era rule, nearly 50,000 TSA workers have no right to collectively bargain in violation of many international labor law agreements granting public employees the right to collectively bargain. Many other government workers with security-sensitive jobs such as Border Patrol and Federal Protective Service officers, ICE agents, FEMA employees, DoD civilian have the right to collectively bargaining, but TSA workers don't President Obama had promised to grant the 50,000 TSA workers the right to collectively bargain, but has so far has yet to do so.
A glimmer of hope appeared when on Nov. 12 the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) declared that TSA workers had the right to call a union election and join a union. However, the FLRA declared that collectively bargaining and belonging to a union were two separate things and that workers would still be barred from collectively bargaining. TSA Administrator John Pistole promised to rule shortly whether or not TSA workers would have the right to collectively bargain. Still, TSA workers were jubilant because allowing them to a join a union would give them more strength to push for workplace improvements and eventually collectively bargaining rights.
However, the day after the FLRA granted TSA the right to a join a union, John Tyner launched his famous "Don't Touch My Junk" video protesting security procedures. To those familiar with the tactics of union busters, it did not seem coincidental that Tyner decided to launch his attack the day after FLRA gave TSA workers the right to to join a union. As a result of the media frenzy whipped up by Tyner's video, right-wing forces are appearing on major TV outlets every night calling for airports to opt out of TSA security and privatize their own security forces. If TSA workers had collective bargaining, it would be much more difficult for airports to privatize.
So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the TSA workers who, despite terrible working conditions, a denial of a fundamental right to collectively bargain, being under attack by union busters and scorned by many airline travelers, still continue doing their jobs. I am thankful for the TSA workers who, despite such awful working conditions are keeping our airports safe this Thanksgiving season.
Correction: A previous version of the post erroneously claimed that The Rutherford Institute is funded by the Koch Brothers. This line has been removed from the post and we regret the error.