Capitol Hill Showdown Looms Over TSA Takeover Bid

(Source: March 2011 NRTWC Newsletter)

Committee Calls on U.S. House Leaders to Block Union Power Grab

On February 4, President Barack Obama’s handpicked head of the Transportation Security Administration publicly announced he would help government union bosses grab monopoly-bargaining control over more than 40,000 airport screeners and other TSA employees.

John Pistole, who was sworn in as TSA chief in July 2010, made the move shortly after Republican John Boehner (Ohio) replaced Big Labor Democrat Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) as speaker of the U.S. House.

The changing of the guard at the House made it impossible, in all probability, for union lobbyists to ram through Congress legislation mandating union monopoly bargaining at the TSA.

Therefore, in order for the Obama Administration to hand federal union officials what they wanted, Mr. Pistole had to act administratively.

Agency Would Likely Become ‘Less Efficient and Flexible’

As a consequence of the Pistole edict, the honchos of one of two large government unions, either the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) or the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), could grab so-called “exclusive” representation power at the TSA within the next few weeks.

If this happens, the already much-reviled federal agency will likely become even “less efficient and flexible,” as National Review Associate Editor Robert Verbruggen pointed out in a February 11 commentary.

Under the Pistole scheme, officers of a recognized union would wield monopoly power to challenge the TSA’s disciplinary actions and negotiate shift bids and transfers.

All front-line employees, including those who don’t want a union and refuse to join, would be forced to rely on union bosses to air their concerns with managers.

Fully understanding that foisting a union monopoly on the TSA, an agency generally viewed as critical for national security, would be controversial and unpopular, the Obama Administration has claimed “security procedures” will not be subject to Big Labor obstruction.

However, matters of discipline, scheduling and overtime at an agency like the TSA obviously do affect managers’ ability to get passengers boarded on planes safely and efficiently. That’s why union “exclusive” representation is banned at national security-related agencies like the FBI, the CIA, and the Secret Service.

One of the few such agencies where monopoly bargaining is already authorized, the Customs and Border Patrol, lost a 2009 arbitration ruling over how it could discipline an employee for literally falling asleep on the job!

Committee Fights For House TSA Reauthorization Barring Union-Boss Takeover

Almost immediately after Mr. Pistole gave the go-ahead to government union organizers, National Right to Work Committee leaders coordinated with likeminded members of Congress a plan to halt the conquest.

On February 15, pro-Right to Work Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) fired a shot across the bow when he forced a floor vote on an amendment to the pending Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill (S.223) that would have prohibited union monopoly bargaining at the TSA.

Union-label Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) successfully corralled every Democrat senator present and voting to block the Wicker amendment. The amendment received 47 votes, and therefore was not added to S.223.

However, Mr. Reid’s inability to persuade a single Republican senator to go along with him, even among those who have sided with government union lobbyists in the past, underscored the fact that public sentiment is moving strongly against Big Labor control of the TSA.

Right to Work President Mark Mix and his team of federal legislative staffers are now pressing hard to ensure that an amendment analogous to Mr. Wicker’s is included in the House version of the TSA reauthorization.

Since Speaker Boehner’s GOP majority caucus, unlike Mr. Reid’s Democrat politicians, is not obsequiously committed to expanding union bosses’ privileges, whenever and wherever they can, there is cause for Right to Work optimism.

“If the House does the right thing and passes a TSA reauthorization rescinding the Obama Administration’s gift to the government union brass, then the battle will move to a legislative conference committee,” explained Mr. Mix.

“With American awareness of the harm inflicted by government union excesses on the rise, I think there is a good chance Right to Work advocates can ultimately prevail and send a reauthorization bill to the President that reverses the Pistole edict.

“Then it will be up to Mr. Obama to decide whether he really wants to keep defying public opinion regarding the TSA.”