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Thu, Jan 16, 2003

Union Wants a Piece of the TSA

Unions Are Good Only For Other People, Notes Loy

When the TSA' James Loy (right) announced that "...mandatory collective bargaining is not compatible with the flexibility required to wage the war against terrorism" last Thursday, it triggered the expected union response. Although the government is generally in favor of union organizing, especially in the private sector, when it comes to dealing with unions for itself, it sees all kinds of problems.

Fortunately, since the government doesn't have to follow the laws it enforces on everyone else, the little demigods that run various bureaucracies often pick and choose which laws they want to follow. The TSA, one of the best examples of "independent" bureaucracy, has long maintained that union organization, and union work rules, would screw up its ability to deal as it sees fit, with all eventualities. Congress made the TSA pretty much above the law, when it was set up; all James Loy, the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, has to do, is say that anything he decides is "in the interest of national security," and he's pretty much off the hook, as far as the law goes.

No surprises.

The tens of thousands of folks who signed up to work for the TSA knew, going in, that the agency didn't want any unions, and didn't have to have any. Now that they've "asked nicely," and have been turned down, they're going the usual route, publicly complaining that the only 'right and fair' thing for the TSA to do, is to let them organize.

Loy won't do it. He wants to say who will work, for how long, and for how much money. He doesn't want some union boss making those decisions for him. These battles are always different when the government is involved, as bureaucratic and military types (of which the TSA's entire cadre of overpaid management is comprised) aren't accustomed to having to follow the laws everyone else has to follow. Even when, as the unions claim, the law is clearly controverting the bureaucracies' actions, bureaucrats pay no heed.

So comes the predictable lawsuit: a day after Loy again affirmed he wasn't going to allow union organizing of his troops, the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, filed suit.

The union claims that some employees are being transferred to airports two hours from home and are forced to work 60 or 70 hours per week; that isn't what any of the rank and file signed up for, and, if true, is a good example of why unions are still relevant in America.

“TSA officials do not have the authority to deprive workers of their rights to join a labor union,” said AFGE National President Bobby L. Harnage. “TSA’s broad and highly questionable personnel authority certainly does not include taking away first amendment rights.”

Claiming TSA chief James M. Loy does not have the authority under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act to prohibit screeners from organizing, AFGE officially filed the complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“AFGE is going to vigorously fight on behalf of the 56,000 airport screeners throughout the U.S. to overturn this unlawful decision by Bush Administration officials,” added Harnage.

The union says that TSA passenger, baggage and lead screeners experience unscheduled shift changes, forced overtime, sexual harassment and delayed paychecks. Baggage handlers are working without protective equipment when searching for explosives. Only under union protection will TSA workers have the assurances they need in order to do the best job possible for the American people.

[Union dues from the 56,000 workers would top $21 million/year, according to estimates printed in The Washington Times --ed.]

FMI: www.screenersunion.org; www.DHSworkers.org; (the lawsuit) www.afge.org/Index.cfm?Fuse=Document&DocumentID=121; the union: www.agfe.org; www.tsa.gov

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