The Obama Administration's TSA Giveaway

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Feb 07, 2011 12:01 AM
The Obama Administration's TSA Giveaway

Big Labor is reaping the rewards for having poured a billion dollars into the Democrats’ coffers during the 2008 elections – and spending millions more last November.

In a furtive, Friday-afternoon news dump, the Obama administration informed Americans that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport screeners would be permitted to engage in collective bargaining -- effectively handing government employee unions up to 50,000 new members, as any screener who wants a voice in union negotiations with the government will have no real choice but to join.

The decision is, of course, a bonanza for the union; it has the potential to create one of the biggest federal-employee unions in the government. And it fits the narrow interests of some airport screeners; unions will protect the least-productive among them, even as it limits the government’s ability to reward those whose job performances exceed expectations. No doubt the Obama administration understands how its political interests are likewise served in handing the unions a sinecure that could result in as much as $11 million new dollars in dues -- much of that money will flow back into Democrat campaign coffers, just in time for next year’s election.

In fact, the decision does well by everyone but the American people. They are the ones who will ultimately be penalized by the Obama administration’s special-interest gift to their union friends.

Foremost, there is no conceivable way that the decision will enhance travelers’ security. Since the TSA’s inception, its employees have been precluded from engaging in collective bargaining, precisely because it would impede the agency’s ability to fulfill its primary mission of protecting the public. Indeed, TSA was able to respond with relative speed and efficiency in 2006 to a new threat of explosive liquids on aircrafts in large part because it had the flexibility to address it without negotiating with a union over changes in work hours and security protocols. With collective bargaining, TSA managers will have to share sensitive intelligence information with union bosses whenever new workplace procedures are implemented. And the extensive negotiating infrastructure required by collective bargaining means that hundreds of TSA screeners could be diverted from the jobs they are supposed to be doing.

But TSA collective bargaining isn’t just inimical to Americans’ security. It’s also deadly to their pocketbooks. Government unions – now representing a majority of unionized workers nationwide – are particularly pernicious because they lack any meaningful competition. In the private sector, management resists unsustainable union demands because it is accountable to shareholders for ensuring that a company is profitable. As everyone knows, government “management” feels no similar pressure; the overspending just adds to the ever-growing deficit.

What’s more, in the private sector – where unionized employers must compete -- self-interest is a check on union greed. Union bosses understand that if they end up securing too fat a contract from a private firm, that firm will lose out to its more efficient competition (thus endangering union jobs). In government union negotiations, there’s no incentive whatsoever for the union bosses to limit their ambitions; however extravagant the contract, government will just spend more on it. And the American taxpayer will have the dubious “privilege” of subsidizing union contracts intended to extract as much money from them as possible.

It’s a sad fact of life that politicians love to reward their campaign contributors. But the Obama administration’s TSA give-away to union special interests comes at the expense of Americans’ security and at a time of unprecedented concern about runaway spending. It’s apparent that The White House never forgets a political favor. Let’s hope they don’t forget that their primary loyalty rightly lies – not with their most generous campaign contributors – but with the American people whose security (both personal and financial) they have sworn to protect.