Earlier this month the Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that 50,000 TSA workers are going to be permitted to vote on whether or not to join a union with full collective bargaining rights. To find out more about this, read John Fund’s November 26th Wall Street Journal commentary entitled “How to Make Air Travel More Infuriating,” or James Sherk’s November 29th Orange County Register commentary entitled “A unionized TSA will be even worse.”
Unionizing the TSA is not necessarily in the interests of public safety or national security, as John Fund notes, “after 9/11, Congress wisely decided to forbid TSA employees from coming under union work rules out of fear that it could compromise security. Imagine if every change in procedures had to be cleared with union shop stewards. While it is not easy to fire TSA personnel now, just think how difficult it will be to remove bad employees if they are covered by union job protection agreements.”
Similarly, as James Sherk writes, “Consider what happened four years ago, when unionized airport screeners in Toronto protested their contract by hand-inspecting every piece of luggage. Lines of passengers waiting to get to their flights piled up over Thanksgiving. Toronto authorities eventually rushed 250,000 passengers onto their flights – without searching them. Fortunately, none of those passengers were terrorists.”
The idea of permitting public safety employees – or any public employees – to unionize, is a relatively recent concept. Sherk explains a primary reason why unionizing the public sector is problematic when he writes “the founders of the modern labor movement thought that unions belonged only in the private sector. They wanted unions to win workers a greater share of business profits. But the government earns no profit. Government unions organize against voters and taxpayers. Even Franklin Roosevelt, America’s most pro-union president, opposed unionizing government. He considered unions obstructing public services intolerable.”
What is interesting here is that Sherk reports that even labor leaders, and pro-union politicians, used to draw the line at the public sector. This is corroborated in a recent article by Steven Malanga, published in the Wall Street Journal on May 14, 2009, entitled “Unions vs. Taxpayers,” where he writes:
“When the movement among public-sector workers to unionize began gathering momentum in the 1950s, some critics, including private-sector labor leaders such as George Meany, observed that government is a monopoly not subject to the discipline of the marketplace. Allowing these workers — many already protected by civil-service law — to organize and bargain collectively might ultimately give them the power to hold politicians and taxpayers hostage.”
If FDR and George Meany, two of the most respected union advocates in the history of the United States, had these concerns about unionized government, it is unlikely their sentiments will not resurface among today’s liberal elite.