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Now with the Union Label

The TSA’s new uniforms.

Dec 10, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 13 • By KATE HAVARD
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However, once the union negotiations began, things started to change.One of the principal changes negotiated in the contract is an overhaul of the TSA’s pay for performance system. Bidding for vacation time will be based on seniority. Standards have been established for the temperature of the work environment and the visibility of tattoos. (For the curious: “Tattoos must be .  .  . not visible to the general public. When an employee is wearing a short sleeve shirt, tattoos may be covered by a plain, single- colored royal blue acceptable band or sports sleeve that does not detract from the uniform.”) And just in case there’s a problem, TSA will allow an employee “to serve on official time on a full-time basis for the Union.” The TSA is to provide this employee with a workspace, if possible, at the airport, “for easy access to employees.”

None of these changes seem likely to make life easier for passengers. And, as critics point out, TSA’s efficiency and the public’s trust in the agency aren’t just about convenience. These are also security issues.

“The FBI wouldn’t be allowed to unionize, for security reasons,” says Patrick Semmens, a spokesman for National Right to Work. “We’re told that the TSA is supposed to be out there on the front lines of national security. They should seek to minimize any potential risk, not to introduce it by adding a whole new bureaucracy.”

“Ultimately, the power of the union is to strike,” Semmens says. “Just because a strike is illegal doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It’s happened before, and amnesty for striking just becomes another bargaining chip in the negotiations.”

The unionization of the TSA and the collective bargaining agreement is being hailed as a historic win for public-sector unions. And it’s a big win for the AFGE in particular, which previously had 250,000 members. That means it’s also a big win for the Democrats.

This year, AFGE’s political action committee spent about half a million dollars supporting Democratic candidates like Sen. Claire McCaskill, Sen. Sherrod Brown, and Rep. Shelley Berkley. AFGE members fork over $14 to $16 per paycheck to the union. Now that they’ve added the TSA screeners, they stand to net an additional $16 million a year.

In effect, you’ll now be giving Democrats a boost every time you fly. Just something to ponder as you enjoy your pre-holiday pat-down.

Kate Havard is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.

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