This piece is co-authored by Courtney Pecquex of AFGE
The thwarted terrorist plot on Christmas Day aboard a Northwest Airlines flight renewed the debate about how safe our skies are and the ability of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) to protect the traveling public from terrorist attacks.
The one thing that can't be debated is the fact that TSA would be more capable of protecting the nation's skies if it had an administrator to lead the agency. And if Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) wasn't too busy playing politics and blocking Erroll Southers -- President Obama's nominee -- the agency would have someone at its helm.
Sen. DeMint, using his senatorial privilege, placed a "hold" on Southers' nomination, preventing the Senate from considering him for TSA's top post without 60 votes. One might wonder why Sen. DeMint is preventing such appointment. It's not because Southers is not qualified for the position, but it is because Southers will not come out against granting collective bargaining and other basic worker rights to 40,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs). In fact, Sen. DeMint goes as far as saying collective bargaining rights "weakens security" and would put the safety of the public at risk.
Never in the history of this nation has a union card jeopardized national security. In fact, US Capitol Police -- who protect lawmakers like Sen. DeMint -- are unionized. The first responders on 9/11 belonged to the Firefighters and Police Unions. As the war goes on in Afghanistan, members of the Seafarers International Union continue to serve their historic role as the nation's fourth arm of defense, supplying our troops in times of war and national emergency. And a union card didn't hinder the response of the TSOs in Detroit as they bravely responded to the crisis on Christmas Day.
Sen. DeMint's attacks against TSOs are a continuation of the Bush Administration's systematic attack to strip collective bargaining rights from federal employees. Despite the attacks and intimidation by DeMint and other like-minded lawmakers, thousands upon thousands of TSOs have bravely stood up and joined the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that has been representing TSOs since the inception of TSA in 2001.
With AFGE as the voice of TSOs at the workplace, TSOs have gained some basic work place protections and have been able to counter disparate treatment in the workplace, but without the right to unionize TSA will continue to be plagued with low morale and high attrition rates. Collective bargaining will provide uniformity in our airports under a national agreement.
Sen. DeMint's misguided attack against TSOs threatens the safety of the traveling public and the security of our nation. In the wake of these recent events, the public can't wait any longer. Call Senator DeMint today at 202.224.6121 and tell him Al-Qaeda is the enemy, not America's unions.