Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What a difference a Democratic Senate makes

The Senate has voted to permit airport screeners to unionize--the same right that almost all other federal civil servants have had for decades. The vote was 51-46; I strongly suspect that it was pretty much along party lines (at least one Repub must have crossed over, because Tim Johnson (D-SD) is still hors de combat), and there's little doubt that the President will veto the bill if he can, should it come to his desk. The provision is part of broad anti-terrorism bill, so Bush might have to swallow hard and permit it to become law.

Anti-union forces in the Senate have not found themselves bound by scruples or honesty on this measure. For instance, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said, "Terrorists don't go on strike. Terrorists don't call their union to negotiate before they attack." The senator seems to have forgotten that unionized federal workers are not permitted to go on strike. He might also consider whether the right to join together to advance worker rights is one of the things that is supposed to set us apart from the terrorists.

Similarly, Repub leader Mitch McConnell (KY), a man who gives new meaning to the word "slimy," said "We're not going to let big labor compromise national security." I'm sure that's going to endear him to all the unionized workers to build our planes, tanks, guns and ships. Sen. McConnell doesn't bother to note that despite it's name, the Transportation Security Administration is not a law enforcement agency. Screeners are not armed and have no power to arrest anyone or even to stop someone who runs through a security checkpoint or a
gate. They must call on law enforcement--generally local police--for that.

TSA has been a deeply troubled agency. Complaints of favoritism, discrimination and incompetence have been legion. To take one instance, the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation signed a letter to the TSA administrator noting that more than 200 complaints of discrimination had been lodged about TSA's Boston operation.

A union might well improve the operation of the agency by reducing the number of complaints, and thus actually enhance security. But don't expect the mad-dog union-busters of the GOP to acknowledge that.

Editorial Note: The original post should have noted that your editor represents two TSA employees in his career as a lawyer.

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