Would you feel better if the folks who screen you at the airport were union workers?
Some Republicans think not, and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has held up the Obama administration’s pick to head the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) over the issue.
Meanwhile, at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, local union workers rallied with Rep. Keith Ellison Monday to celebrate the new Local 899 of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal employee union representing 600,000 workers across the nation.
The Minnesota Democrat was there to show his support for the TSA workers in their eight-year campaign to secure collective bargaining rights. Unlike other workers in the Department of Homeland Security, TSA officers can get union help for certain employment and legal matters, but not for negotiating labor contracts.
It was a sleeper issue until Christmas Day, when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a troubled Nigerian youth with Al-Qaida connections, allegedly attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight with a bomb concealed in his underwear.
The attack brought some urgency to the vacancy at the top of the TSA, which, it turned out, had been held up by DeMint in an effort to prevent TSA workers from joining a union. (The nominee, ex-FBI agent Erroll Southers, also has had to explain why he once used a law enforcement database to check up on his ex-wife’s new love interest).
For now, though, TSA workers at MSP are just happy to be part of AFGE Local 899, which also covers TSA officers at airports throughout Minnesota. Altogether, AFGE has some 36 locals nationwide, representing about 12,000 TSA workers.
They may not be able to strike or negotiate contracts, but now if they get in trouble with the boss, they have someplace to turn.