Are security officers who are employees of the Transportation Security Administration really workers? Not according to today’s decision limiting their union rights.
I remember early on, a few months after 9/11, I had a long conversation with one of the new security officers about whether or not he was—or could be—a member of a union. “Not yet,” he responded, “but it won’t be long. Given the hours we’re working and the low pay, we’ll have a union very soon.”
Well, it took almost a decade and now they can have a union. Kind of. As of today, the nation’s 45,000 airport security officers are allowed to belong to unions. But: they can’t bargain over “pay, retirement benefits, job qualification rules, disciplinary standards or issues related to security procedures, like what security equipment they must use or when and where they are deployed.” They can’t go on strike or “have any work-related slowdowns as a form of union demonstration.”There will be set limits on how long negotiations on topics subject to union bargaining can drag on. And the officers will not be required to join a union or pay dues.”
Now, I’ve never been a fan of enhanced security procedures in airports. They provide a false sense of security, but we all are forced to follow them at risk of missing our flights or being detained. However, if the government is going to put that many workers out there, they deserve to have the rights of all other workers: to belong to real unions, with real collective-bargaining rights.
Otherwise, what is it they’re supposed to be protecting?