Napolitano wants to unionize TSA employees despite safety concerns

by Mark Hemingway
Washington Examiner

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano hasn’t exactly inspired confidence after proclaiming “the system worked” in response to the recent thwarted terrorist attack. A radical Islamic terrorist — whose father had warned the U.S. embassy of his dangerous intentions — smuggled explosives on board a flight into the U.S. and nearly detonated them. It was hardly a victory for Homeland Security. In fact, this paper called for her resignation this morning.

Well, as if that weren’t bad enough, Napolitano was already at work undermining security measures long before the most recent terrorist attacks. Over the weekend, Senator Jim DeMint, R-S.C., sounded the alarm about the Obama administration’s attempts unionize Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) employees:

The administration is intent in on unionizing and submitting our airport security to union bosses [and] collective bargaining, and this is at a time, as Senator Lieberman says, we’ve got to use our imagination we’ve got to be constantly flexible. We have to out think the terrorists. When we formed the airport security system we realize we could not use collective bargaining and unionization because of that need to be flexible. Yet that appears to be the top priority of the administration.

The flexibility that DeMint speaks of is crucial. After a British airliner bombing plot was uncovered in 2006, the TSA overhauled security procedures in a matter of 12 hours to deal with the threat of liquid explosives. It’s difficult to imagine that kind of flexibility under ossified union rules.

The reason why DeMint is concerned about unionizing TSA is twofold. One, the President’s nominee to head up the TSA, Eroll Southers, refuses to say whether he would allow collective bargaining. And two, this exchange between Demint and Napolitano earlier this month probably did not reassure the Senator from South Carolina:

Sen. DeMint: My question to you is not whether or not you’ve seen it work at a state or local level, but the whole point of homeland security and particularly TSA is the security of our — of the passengers, and if — in the beginning — and our debate — and every previous administrator at TSA has said that collective bargaining is not consistent with the flexibility and the need to change. You were telling us that you’re going to collectively bargain, even though there’s apparently no reason to protect workers. There’s not any reason to standardize various work requirements. Why do we need to bring collective bargaining into this process when we see TSA making the improvements that it needs to make our passengers more secure?

Sec. Napolitano: Well, thank you, senator, for noting the improvements of our — of TSA and the employee workforce we have there, but again, I go back to the basic point that I do not think security and collective bargaining are mutually exclusive, nor do I think that collective bargaining cannot be accomplished by an agency, such as TSA, should the workers desire to be organized in such a fashion.

Sen. DeMint: Okay. Thank you for answering my question.

To sum up, DeMint asks Napolitano what reason there is for collective baragaining in light of security concerns. Despite the pleasantries, it’s clear Napolitano won’t or can’t answer the question, even though the safety of American travelers depends on her answer.

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