Tuesday, March 06, 2007

a legitimate improvement to national security

I'm speaking here, of course, about Congress's decision to grant organizing rights to 45,000 airport screeners. Can we all agree that, of the hundreds of millions of working Americans, these people should be on the list of Top Ten Professions Who We Really Need Be Happy On The Job? I'm going to skip over the obvious reasons for this, and I'll refrain from ranting about Mitch McConnell's remarks, because what did we expect?, and same goes for Richard Burr's comically inept and insulting attempt at a soundbite, but I will say this:

Why is it so damn hard for our elected officials to just say "Collective bargaining is good. It improves operations, increases retention, and protects workers." Meanwhile, all the reassurances about what the union won't be able to do (strike, bargain for pay, etc.) don't do anything to make me feel safer. A weak union doesn't protect anyone.

I know this is well-trod ground. I think it's worth a reminder that, as with many jobs, DHS employees make sacrifices and enter into obligations as part of their work. No union has the authority or the power to curtail the TSA from doing what it needs to do in an emergency, and plenty of collective bargaining agreements contain whole sections devoted to those exceptional circumstances. Similarly, all the TSA needs to do to avoid an emergency labor problem is employ enough people and treat them well enough to ensure proper staffing, training, etc.

To my mind, this debate exposes the equally well-trod ground of how inadequate the labor standards are for DHS employees, and the shameful hypocrisy of Congress and the Bush Administration in trying to get national security on the cheap, at the expense of our safety as well as the lives of the people charged with protecting us.

Okay, enough of that.


Not a Flaneur, I Just Walk A lot said...

Someone should forward Burr's soundbite to those Yale profs who accused GESO of being terrorists and every hotel association spokesperson who's ever accused unite here of economic terrorism.

Alyssa said...

Oh, Mitch McConnell. I have a (very short) piece in this week's magazine making fun of his Employee Free Choice Act rhetoric. Good thoughts. I may be writing about this TSA stuff a bit...any thoughts about other historical examples of lawmakers claiming collective bargaining would harm national security (I'm thinking Youngstown-type examples).

alek said...

Any number of strikes were ended by FDR's decree during WWII, though people's collective bargaining rights weren't stripped (as far as I know, I'm not a labor historian). PATELCO's another prominent instance of security-rationalized strikebreaking. I'm sure there are plenty of examples when security rhetoric was used to discourage/condemn collective bargaining, in both the public and private sector. Don't have any examples in mind, though...sorry!

Not a Flaneur, I Just Walk A lot said...

The federal government compelled union recognition in exchaqnge for a wage freeze and a no strike pledge in WWII. I think that's what Alek is referring to. And it's just PATCO.