November 30, 2010
By James Sherk
If you think air travel is bad now, just wait until the airport screeners unionize.
It’s about to happen. The White House just decided that the Transportation Security Administration will vote on unionizing next year. TSA Administrator John Pistole is widely expected to grant this union collective bargaining rights.
This will not improve holiday travel. Unions already make getting rid of problem employees difficult. Those screeners who pat down too enthusiastically will get a union to hide behind. Do you think that will improve travel? Americans put up with these screenings to protect against terrorists.
Unfortunately, unionizing will also reduce security.
Consider what happened four years ago, when unionized airport screeners in Toronto protested their contract by hand-inspecting every piece of luggage. Lines of passengers waiting to get to their flights piled up over Thanksgiving. Toronto authorities eventually rushed 250,000 passengers onto their flights - without searching them. Fortunately, none of those passengers were terrorists.
Unions will reduce safety even without labor disputes. Collective bargaining requires the government to negotiate before changing working conditions. However, terrorists are not going to wait until bargaining ends to attack. Unions reduce the flexibility the government needs to respond to threats.
That is why the founders of the modern labor movement thought that unions belonged only in the private sector. They wanted unions to win workers a greater share of business profits. But the government earns no profits. Government unions organize against voters and taxpayers - something they thought made no sense.
But Congress decided that the government needed maximum flexibility to protect national security. Employees of the CIA, the FBI and the Secret Service do not collectively bargain with Uncle Sam. Nonetheless Obama appointees have decided that airport security screeners should. Why would the president do this? Political pressure. Unions are one of the most well-funded special interests in the country.
They collect dues from millions of workers and spend that money politicking. Unions ran half of the 20 largest political action committees in the last election. One of their top political priorities is organizing more government employees.
Unionizing the TSA would add 50,000 dues-paying members to union ranks - as many as currently work for GM. Those workers would pay tens of millions in annual dues. Union leadership dearly wants this plum prize. Unions spent half a billion to elect the president. They spent more on the mid-term elections than the Chamber of Commerce did. So when they speak, Obama listens.
Remember that when you’re waiting in line for your holiday pat-down next Thanksgiving.
James Sherk is a senior policy analyst in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The Boston Herald
Entitlements, Taxes & Spending Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 200,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2013, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973