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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 11/23/2010

Unions defending TSA workers from backlash

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Despite coverage and commentary suggesting otherwise, nearly two-thirds of Americans support the use of new full-body scanners at airports. But half of respondents to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said enhanced pat-down searches go too far.

In an effort to keep the flying public from taking out their frustration on airport screeners, the two unions fighting to represent them are running dueling ads in Tuesday's USA Today and reaching out directly to some of the nation's frequent fliers. (Both unions chose to purchase ad space in the competition **ehem** because of its popularity at the nation's airports.)

The American Federation of Government Employees and National Treasury Employees Union are gearing up for a knock-down fight to represent transportation security officers after the Federal Labor Relations Authority recently allowed them to vote on union representation. Winning the right to represent some of the federal government's most visible employees would be a major coup for either union.

That's why today's newspaper ads aren't only designed to stand up for TSA's workers, but also a veiled campaign ad designed to win their support.

AFGE, the larger of the two unions, is running a half-page ad. "We're just asking the public to calm down," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which is running a half-page ad (see below). "Our phones are ringing off the hook with TSOs calling in about unpleasantries between the flying public and them. The public has to understand these TSOs didn't make the policies, they're working people trying to do it the best they can."

In an open letter published across a full page ad, National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley reminds passengers that they are being served by "a professional, dedicated security
workforce whose sole responsibility is to ensure the safety of our nation's skies."

TSA screeners "replaced a poorly trained, contract security workforce that did not provide adequate airport security," Kelley says in her letter/ad. "There is no doubt that our nation's airways are safer now than they were before Congress created TSA after September 11, 2001. The Officers you encounter at the airport take threats to our national security seriously and are deeply committed to the mission of TSA, and to your safety."

The ad reminds readers that TSOs did not establish the new policies and lack collective bargaining rights. NTEU is also buying ad space in two e-mail newsletters sent to frequent fliers.

While both unions buy ad space and score earned media for their efforts, both have declined to put TSOs they work with in touch with reporters seeking to independently verify their concerns and claims of harassment. Airport screeners are fearful of speaking out -- even if we don't use full names and just identify which airport they work for -- because TSA managers may retaliate, union spokespeople said. But again, we have no way of knowing that independently.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: Airport security is frustrating Obama White House advisers, but Bush-era officials salute TSA's recent moves. A Q&A with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Helmet face shield could reduce troop brain injuries: Findings of a study by MIT engineers might contribute to a future redesign.

FBI:
FBI raids hedge funds in insider-trading probe: Agents searched the offices of Level Global Investors and Diamondback Capital Management, which manage billions of dollars in assets.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES:
Obama administration spells out health-care law's 'medical loss ratio' rule: The rule defines a promise to consumers in the new federal health-care law that insurers will spend at least $4 out of $5 they collect in premiums on medical services and other efforts to improve patients' health.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:
Federal courthouses, personnel could be at risk, report says: Poor training, questionable contracts and broken security equipment used by guards are to blame.

NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION:
Report: Nuclear weapon drivers drank on the job: Federal agents responsible for driving nuclear weapons and other sensitive materials sometimes got drunk and were detained by police while on the job, according to a new watchdog report.

STATE DEPARTMENT:
Green-card lottery record: A record 15 million people around the world this year entered America's green-card lottery, an immigration program that offers a quick path to legal, permanent U.S. residence for 50,000 people a year.

TSA:
Who is exempt from airport security?: Increased scrutiny of airport security means public officials are being asked if they have or would be willing to endure airport security pat-downs.

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AFGE'S AD IN USA TODAY:
USA Today AFGE Ad_final_no Bleed

NTEU'S AD IN USA TODAY:
NTEU USAToday Nov2010 New3

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 23, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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Next: Federal law enforcement officers back TSA screening

Comments

The requirements to get a TSA job must be minimum 5 years of being a sex-offender. No wonder my neighborhood does not have any sex-offenders. They are all working at the airports.

Posted by: miscpsatya | November 23, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

I have no sympathy for the TSA employees.

If your boss tells you to start grabbing people's genitals, the correct response is to refuse or quit, not to ask your victims to stop complaining.

Posted by: vfr2dca | November 23, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Those defending the "professional" TSA officers must not travel through the same airports that I do across the United States. The vast majority of the TSA personnel that I have encountered do not qualify as "professionals". These officers are given a few weeks training and then are qualified to run their hands anywhere they want on the traveling public - give me a break. What accountability do these TSA officers have? Mr. Pistole stated that the incident in Detroit with the bladder cancer survivor was an opportunity for additional training - you can't teach respect Mr. Pistole. If Mr. Pistole believes he can rehabilitate officers with training to show concern and respect for disabled persons or people with special needs he shouldn't be running the TSA.

Unfortunately, few in government or the unions understand accountability and responsibility.

Posted by: FrequentTravler | November 23, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

If the democrats had not insisted in making all screeners federal officers we would not be having this discussion today. Being government officers makes these workers arrogant and unaccountable. The republicans went along with this. Now we reap what we sow. More Americans will hate government due to the high handed behavior of these "officers". It is time to privatize major parts of state, city and federal functions in order to balance the budget.

Posted by: upnorth85 | November 23, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps if the federal govt CRIMINALLY prosecuted the Philadelphia TSA agent who planted a white substance on an attractive college girl so he could detain her while other TSAs did nothing, they might get more cooperation.

Posted by: Taxpayer100 | November 23, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps if the federal govt CRIMINALLY prosecuted the Philadelphia TSA agent who planted a white substance on an attractive college girl so he could detain her while other TSAs did nothing, they might get more cooperation.

Posted by: Taxpayer100 | November 23, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

TSA agents are a classic example of what happens when individuals are given limitless power over others. They're enacting out in real life what was demonstrated in the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment where student "guards" began to torture student "prisoners". The behavior of the TSA is no different.

It's past time the TSA was eliminated. The security theatre they produce has no effect on "safety", but it's quite effective in turning people into compliant sheep. If we wish to retain our democratic republic the TSA needs to be discarded.

Posted by: MarcoVincenzoNYC | November 23, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

The procedures that the TSA workers use are not up to them. They don't even get enough input into the decision to start with. That's more of a problem than a lot of other problems, and it's the source of a lot of them too.

I've been patted down literally hundreds of times using the 'old' procedures, and they were quite thorough without being witless.

I'd like there to be better analysis on the machines, as well as some sort of image filtering, and if I had a choice between the machine and a pat down, I'd prefer the old procedures at least.

Above all though I'd like it if TSA workers got more of a voice than they have now. I think we'd all be better off if they can communicate with management better than they can now. - And that's not to say management isn't doing a decent job, it is, but they also get caught between sometimes witless policies from leadership and everyone else.

I've found TSA workers to be helpful & decent people, & I think a lot of the toleration of the recent changes by the public comes from that. I don't think it comes from the politics of fear the media and politicians run with.

Posted by: Nymous | November 23, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Well, if these policies weren't in place to start with, there wouldn't be such a huge backlash, now would there? Your employees are dealing with the monster you created, you should take care of it yourself.

Posted by: CNUCatherine | November 23, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

"It is time to privatize major parts of state, city and federal functions in order to balance the budget."

That's a great idea! We should privatize all the roads and let some corporation charge what they think is "fair" for us consumers. They already did this in Chicago with the parking meters and rates have skyrocketed. Cool, huh?

Privatizing everything is economically short-sighted and dumb, no matter how much you think you'll balance the budget in the short-term. States will end up getting a fraction of what these things are worth, and we'll be wholly owned by international corporations.

The obvious solution is to try and make government more accountable and streamlined, which is definitely possible with the right mechanisms. I think it can happen, and we'll be better off for it.

Also, I bet all you freedom-loving commenters would be the first ones to sound the alarm about TSA not doing their jobs well enough if we had another airline terrorist attack. I'm OK with security measures (and a side of attitude from TSA) if it means the airlines are much safer.

Posted by: ezcheese81 | November 23, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

So will the TSA's union now be lobbying the public, and congress, for ever increasing security (and spending) for its own sake?

Posted by: afpre42 | November 23, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

There is not a shred of evidence that the new TSA procedures make flying "much safer"...or even "safer" at all. Why should we assume that? The most prominent thing the new scanning machines are doing, apparently, is enriching a former homeland security chief. Why has there been no explanation of Michael Chertoff's role in all of this? Talk about what certainly appears to be sleasy insider dealing.

Problem is: what's next from TSA...and you can bet your last dollar there will be something even more intrusive and invasive at some point in the future? Why doesn't TSA have to show some evidence that the new procedures actually "work"? Hard to imagine any would-be "terrorist" could get any more hints about evading the scanners than has already been reported. Why are they supposedly better than sniper dogs, for instance?

And why don't Americans get some common sense: there have been fanatics/radicals using acts of terror for at least 2,000 years, and will be for another 2,000 most likely. No one in history has ever stopped all terrorist acts...and we won't either (someone is bound to succeed). Just take that into account when considering how much more we want our government to intrude into our lives in the falsely claimed hope of "keeping us safe."

Posted by: Rigged | November 23, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

How is it that we Americans think we can slaughter civilians, soldiers and about anyone else in their own homelands and not suffer retaliation in our homeland? Justification for our continuing adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan is doubtful at best. With Israel, we are enabling slaughter for ethnic cleansing, racial, religious and territorial conquest in violation of UN Resolutions. Yes, people out there want to kill us and will go about it however they can. Do you blame them?

Posted by: smehgol | November 23, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Re ezcheese81's statement: "Also, I bet all you freedom-loving commenters would be the first ones to sound the alarm about TSA not doing their jobs well enough if we had another airline terrorist attack."

If God forbid there is a next attack, it will be by a Muslim fundamentalist who could have been easily profiled and thwarted if the TSA screener wasn't so busy making grandma empty out the baby shampoo.

Posted by: tomj5 | November 23, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

The guy who knocked up my girlfriend's daughter is a dope smoking, lazy, lying, thieving little creep who isn't welcome in my home. He was accepted by TSA and is waiting assignment.

Posted by: darkglobe5 | November 23, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I think the best caricature of the TSA employee was done many years ago by Tracy Ulman, when she used to have a show on HBO. I do not so much blame the average TSA employee for this whole mess (they are just doing a dirty job to a earn a living), but the DHS-TSA idiotic and authocratic ringleaders, such as the corrupt Michael Chertoff (sold us a bill of goods with these darn scanners to shamelesly profit from it), Janet Napolitano and Herr John Pistole.

Posted by: fgominho | November 23, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

TSOs are stuck in the middle and I do feel bad for them. TSA's agenda to prey on public sympathy, however, is disgusting.

The poll is completely fraudulent. Thanks WaPo for selling out! The poll I participated in on WaPo did NOT show 2/3 rds support for nudy scanners.

Most of the people polled hadn't flown in the last few weeks when the changes occurred and didn't know what a full body scanning image looked like.

Yes, airports are more safe than pre 9-11, but the inhanced security isn't preventing anything. Not to mention the fact that I have no confidence in a TSO being able to take down a terrorist. They aren't even trained for it. Bring back the gun toters and sniffing dogs.

I don't care how politely it's done; touching my crotch is off limits. Our founding fathers are rolling in their graves. All of those who fought and died for our freedom are rolling at the notion that Americans have to submit to nudey pictures being taken of them or having their crotch grabbed in public. I think that's a little more of a human rights infringement than taxation without representation!

Posted by: hebe1 | November 23, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I believe in labor unions.

I DON'T believe in labor union members - no matter what their job - intimately touching the innocent traveling public.

No matter what.

Posted by: solsticebelle | November 23, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

TSA screeners... nothing more to say.

Posted by: whocares666 | November 23, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I realize that Obama grew up in Indonesia, but somebody needs to get across to these people that this kind of search without "probable cause" is fundamentaly Unamerican.

OlEd

Posted by: Ol_Ed | November 23, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse


OlEd

If the Indonesian authorities tried to pull this on THEIR people, the parangs would be out in a second and the offenders dealt with appropriately. Even Sukarno and Suharto didn't try foisting this on their people.

Posted by: bloggersvilleusa | November 23, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Unions trying to guarantee the failure of TSA by advocating unionization.

TSA if they go union will join all other government agency's who have failed. Instead of going union, we the people need to be advocating getting unions out of all areas of government and public service. We, under the Obama admin. are heading down the same path as France. Unions corrupt; mismanage; over cost; work less per pay period; corrupt and are the leading front to the Obama socialism agenda in the US.

Posted by: lhudson828 | November 23, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Unions trying to guarantee the failure of TSA by advocating unionization.

TSA if they go union will join all other government agency's who have failed. Instead of going union, we the people need to be advocating getting unions out of all areas of government and public service. We, under the Obama admin. are heading down the same path as France. Unions corrupt; mismanage; over cost; work less per pay period; corrupt and are the leading front to the Obama socialism agenda in the US.

Posted by: lhudson828 | November 23, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

First, I think unions are sucking the blood out of America. They can't compromise, that is why our industries has gone overseas. As for the unionizing the TSA some of them will take indecent liberites with their job and be protected by the unions. They will never get fired or punished for their wrong doings. Another thought, do they ever change their gloves or is disease being passed from one passenger to another. It is disgusting.

Posted by: Phumus | November 23, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Such a mistake to allow the TSA to be unionized. The whole business of public sector unions, who buy support for pay and benefits raises, with electoral support to candiadates, is essentailly a corrupt system.

Re the TSA, they are just trying to do their job, but if the Federal Government wants to improve their image, and especially our image to visitors to the U.S., they should start a weight control program similar to the armed forces. There are so many obese TSA workers and they present a very unprofessional image.

Posted by: Longboard | November 24, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

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