Wednesday, March 07, 2007

TSA Bargaining Rights

From the Senate today:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Wednesday backed a Democratic-sponsored measure that would give new labor protections to airport screeners while seeking to address White House concerns that federal authorities have flexibility to respond to security threats.
The arguments that many Republicans have parroted in this debate is that collective bargaining rights for TSA workers would make them unable to respond effectively to emergencies. For example, from the same article:
In a letter to Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said collective bargaining rights are incompatible with the "successful performance" of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

"TSA must be able to react nimbly, not only to the ever-evolving security threats that confront our nation, but also to changing air carrier schedules, weather disruptions, and special events that draw large number of passengers to particular airports," he wrote.
I'm not sure that I have a complete handle on all of the pros and cons of this legislation. But this one point, repeated over and over by Senate Republicans over the past 24 hours, makes little sense to me. After all, lots of the nation's police officers and firefighters are unionized.

According to the BLS, close to 40% of workers in Protective Services occupations (which include police, firefighters, corrections officers, and so forth) are unionized. The police officer website (no, I never knew such a thing existed before today either) lists over 200 separate police officer labor organizations in the US. Is each of those unionized police departments unable to respond to emergencies in their cities? Does each of those cities face problems getting police officers on the street whenever there is bad weather or a special event in their city? Somehow, I just don't think so.

One may have a philosophical objection to letting TSA workers bargain collectively. But the notion that it would make them unable to deal with emergencies seems like a rather ridiculous one to me.

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