- The Washington Times - Friday, January 15, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Should American taxpayers worry about the federal government being unable to fire incompetent security agents at airports?

If the union bosses and their Democratic allies get their way by taking advantage of the latest terrorism scare, our national security soon could take a back seat to the same bureaucratic union rules that bankrupted General Motors. Since the Christmas Day terrorist attack was narrowly averted, there has been an intense public debate about exactly what went wrong and how such systemic failures can be prevented in the future.

However, the notion that putting airport baggage screeners in Detroit and other cities across America under union monopoly control could have prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding a plane in Amsterdam has no place in a rational debate. Contrary to the claims of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, forcing airport security screeners into union ranks could only serve to make it more difficult for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to do its job.

Seeking to exploit public concerns about this grave breach of national security, Mr. Reid targeted Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, and other pro-right-to-work senators for refusing to rubber-stamp the appointment of Erroll Southers, President Obama’s Big Labor-endorsed pick to head TSA, without holding a debate first.

Only by giving Mr. Southers the green light with no more questions asked can the Senate give the American people “the peace of mind to know their government is doing everything possible to keep them safe,” Mr. Reid claimed.

Top union bosses and Big Labor puppet politicians like Mr. Reid can’t wait to have Mr. Southers installed as TSA chief because, although he refuses to acknowledge it publicly, they are confident Mr. Obama will have Mr. Southers overturn the agency’s current policy of prohibiting union monopoly bargaining over federal airport screeners.

Handing officials of a single union monopoly power to negotiate over how airport screeners do their jobs would make it harder for the executive branch to hire, fire, train and reassign workers to best meet ever-changing terrorist threats.

Union-boss-negotiated rules and regulations regularly protect the worst employees and make it impossible to discipline, reassign or terminate employees no matter how egregious the offense. Just ask the former GM supervisor whose horror stories include being unable to fire United Auto Workers members for having sex with prostitutes in a recreational vehicle parked in a GM loading yard because she couldn’t point to an applicable rule in the union contract.

The vast majority of Americans who understand what Mr. Reid and company want don’t like the TSA unionization scheme one bit.And that’s the real reason Mr. Reid is so angry with Mr. DeMint and other senators for resisting the Southers nomination and demanding a hearing.

Big Labor politicians in Congress could foist a union monopoly on the TSA by approving pending legislation explicitly designed to achieve that aim. Or Mr. Reid and the pro-forced-unionism majority of senators could simply allow pro-right-to-work senators to have their say on the Senate floor about the Southers nomination and then ram it through.

However, neither of these scenarios appeals much to Mr. Reid because they both require him to accept accountability for corralling TSA employees into a union, and he knows that’s not popular with his constituents in right-to-work Nevada or with Americans as a whole.

So, instead, he’s insisting that the Senate must rush through the Southers nomination, without any discussion, almost immediately after the chamber reconvenes this month - or the terrorists will have won.

The fact is, for all its real and perceived flaws, the TSA wasn’t responsible for Mr. Abdulmutallab boarding his plane in Amsterdam, and the atrocity he nearly perpetrated should not prompt the Senate to give a hasty rubber stamp to the Southers nomination.

Union monopoly bargaining at the TSA would increase the risk of the agency’s failing to prevent terrorists from boarding planes at U.S. airports. Pro-right-to-work senators are correct to insist on holding a debate on this important matter before voting on Mr. Obama’s nominee to head TSA.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee.

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