Ed Driscoll


PRESIDENT REAGAN’S HANDLING OF THE AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS’ STRIKE was one of the (many) moments of his administration that was greater than the sum of its events. In her book about Reagan, Peggy Noonan quoted the Gipper’s Secretary of State George Schultz, who called it:

“One of the most fortuitous foreign relations moves he ever made”. It was in no way a popular move with the American public but it showed European heads of state and diplomatic personnel that he was tough and meant what he said.

Perhaps learning from this event, in a similar, but preemptive move, the Bush Administration is refusing to allow the Transportation Security Administration to unionize:

Airport security screeners don’t have the right to unionize, according to the agency handling labor issues for the federal government.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that the screeners’ boss, Transportation Security Administration chief James Loy, has discretion to decide the terms and conditions of their employment.

Loy in January signed an order forbidding collective bargaining by screeners, saying unions are incompatible with the war on terror that screeners are helping the government wage. Union contracts could limit the flexibility needed to make sudden changes in shift assignments in response to terror threats, Loy said.

AP reports that “the screeners earn between $23,600 to $35,400 a year, with health care, life insurance, paid vacation and sick leave. Before Sept. 11, the private-sector screeners earned less and often had no benefits.”

An average salary of about 30K for work that could be done by any able-bodied person with little or no specialized training seems pretty darn good to me. What more could the unions bring them, other than increased red tape. And what happens when the inevitable strike occurs, just as it did with the air traffic controllers?

As Calvin Coolidge said when he was governor of Massachusetts, “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, at anytime”. Too bad the union who wants to represent the TSA doesn’t get this.