For all of this internal debate, the one thing I have to keep in mind is that allowance for collective bargaining has already occurred in other somewhat similar federal divisions, including the Border Patrol, federal protective officers and the U.S. Capitol Police. I don't see any indication that these organizations have been unable to do their jobs (and do their jobs well) because they have collective bargaining.
One thing is for clear, President Obama is heading the TSA toward collective bargaining. He wrote the following in an Oct. 20, 2008 letter to the president of the American Federation of Government Employees:
"Advocating for TSOs to receive collective bargaining rights and workplace protections will be a priority for my administration. It is unacceptable for TSOs to work under unfair rules and without workplace protections – this makes it more difficult for them to perform their jobs. Since 2001, TSA has had the unfettered ability to deny its workforce even the most basic labor rights and protections. ... Collective bargaining rights ensure that federal agencies run as effectively as possible and are able to focus on protecting our national security. Collective bargaining agreements also provide an excellent structure to address issues such as a fair promotion system, the scheduling of overtime, shift rotation, health and safety improvements, parking, child care and public transportation subsidies. By addressing these day-to-day issues in a manner that is both functional and fair, I believe the unacceptably high attrition rate of TSOs will improve and more TSOs will remain on the job resulting in the career, professional, and highly trained workforce the public and Congress demanded following the terrible events of September 11th."
So, while some may argue that leadership of the TSA is the issue here, they are only partially correct. The real issue is unionization and collective bargaining. Now the question is whether the Obama administration still has the clout to push collective bargaining onto the TSA or whether they will save their energies to fight other battles. I would bet they stick with this issue.
*[Of course, there could be questions about DeMint's own knowledge of jobs and job creation; his state has now hit a record unemployment high of 12.3 percent, which DeMint has squarely blamed on the federal government, saying in a recent press release from his office that "their liberal agenda is hurting the American people."]
About the author: Geoff Kohl is editor-in-chief and associate publisher of SecurityInfoWatch.com, and has been covering the security industry for over five years, reporting on policies, technology and industry trends.