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Seems the American Federation of Government Employees wants to win the right to represent the TSA’s screening workforce: The union filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority calling for a TSA-wide election on the subject. That would be a substantial step towards collective bargaining rights for TSA employees.
And so it has prompted the usual counter-arguments from opponents of bargaining rights.
“TSA screeners can already join unions, but collective bargaining would force TSA officials to ask union bosses for permission to make critical security changes,” argued Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
I have my own views on unions, which I’m not going to share here. But it seems to me that — whether you’re pro- or anti-union — the burden of proof is on DeMint: He needs to prove that unionization would be a bad thing, not the other way around. And so far I haven’t heard one compelling argument against allowing TSA employees collective bargaining rights, except some abstract scare-mongering about how “union bosses” will cause another terrorist attack.
As President Obama’s now-withdrawn TSA nominee, Erroll Southers, pointed out to me when I interviewed him last month: Plenty of law enforcement agencies — federal, state, local — are unionized. They seem to manage just fine.
In the meantime, as long as this collective bargaining question continues to hound TSA, I’m not sure how Obama can get an administrator through Congress. Seems like there are only three possible outcomes to the confirmation process: The nominee could back collective bargaining, in which case his nomination is dead; he could promise to “study the issue,” in which case his nomination is probably dead (this is what Southers did); or he could oppose collective bargaining rights, which would put him at odds with the president’s stated position on the issue.