November 22, 2010

TSA WORKERS COMPLAIN OF ABUSE: “Molester, pervert, disgusting, an embarrassment, creep. These are all words I have heard today at work describing me. …These comments are painful and demoralizing.”

Plus this:

Guy Winch, an expert on the psychology of complaining and customer service and the author of a forthcoming book, “The Squeaky Wheel,” is concerned with the stress levels TSA employees may be experiencing this week on the job.

He explains that the “emotional labor” TSA workers must do — “processing people regardless of hostile exchanges … and looking for explosives and weapons” — makes the stakes for performing their duties correctly “as high as they get.” Winch says the best thing TSA administrators can do for employees doing enhanced pat-downs is to provide an extra layer of managerial and supervisory support. “They need to convey the message that superiors are aware of the stresses the employees are under and are there to support them.”

Winch says having a mental health professional on staff or available as a referral “can be crucial in helping the people who did not make these rules but are charged with enforcing and implementing them nonetheless.” . . .

“Instead of making this Wednesday National Opt-Out Day in which a bunch of self-appointed guardians of liberty slow down the line for everyone by asking for pat-downs,” said Baker, “maybe what we need is a day when everyone who goes through the line says, ‘Thanks for what you do.’

I don’t think that’s going to happen when they touch people’s junk. And it’s likely to be alarming to be told “thanks for what you do” then . . . .

Related: “Gate rape.” Grope and change!

UPDATE: The TSA Screening Line Is The New Town Hall. “Obama is completely tone deaf on this issue.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bob Gleason writes:

We need fewer “experts on the psychology of complaining” and more people who understand that a) TSA has not intercepted one terrorist in the last 9 years that I know of. I hope I’m wrong but I doubt it; b) thanking people for further violating our Constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure does not seem to be an “expert” response; c) I’d be much more concerned about the 10s of thousands of people who are subjected to this kind of search every day…if all they choose to do it opt out of an electronic screening I’d say we got off easy. History shows that large groups of pissed off people, herded into small areas, subjected to treatment that is grindingly invasive and at the same time unnecessary, often react badly. I hope we don’t hear from a self styled “expert on the psychology of mob violence” in a few days…but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Hmm. That would be Pauline Maier.

MORE: Reader Roland Mar writes:

Two thoughts: one I recommend the Maier book wholeheartedly. There is every appearance of parallels that can be drawn. Second, if the TSA were to offer psychologists to offer support to TSA staff, it would be the first time that TSA agents have been looked at by the shrinks. According to an interview with the TSA Human Resources office, there is NO psychological testing of applicants.

Indeed.

MORE STILL: A reader who asks anonymity writes:

I found your note from Guy Winch very upsetting. My wife and I are the guardians of a girl who came from a home where we believe she may have been sexually abused or witnessed sexual abuse of her mother. Her father had abandoned their family and the mother had struggled to survive and eventually turned to prostitution with the child in the house. This all happened when she was a preschooler. She did the most disturbing things when she was taken from her mother and placed in our custody. For example, she had the habit of walking up to any random male who paid any fleeting attention to her, such as a pizza deliveryman, hug him, and say “I love you.” We, along with child therapists have worked with her since we’ve had her, and now, 5 years later, she is a very normal middle grade schooler. She is successful in school, has close friends, and is good at sports and music We are protective. We keep an eye on her, especially the adults she interacts with.

At this point I will not take her to an airport. How could I? I am unable to justify the risk of exposing her to a situation where not only would she would be forced to submit to a stranger fondling her genitals, but my wife and I would be forced, under threat of a multi-thousand dollar fine, to “force” our child to comply. I can’t imagine anything more threatening to her mental well being, and the fine we would have to pay to refuse might cost us our house. This means that until the situation changes, she will not travel by air. Fortunately, we have no plans to travel by air anytime in the near future. We did earlier in the summer, ,and so it was only by sheer luck that we did not have to eat three plane tickets.

So when I read Guy Winch suggest that airports have “a mental health professional on staff or available as a referral ” for the poor TSA agents who have to grope people day in and day out, all I can think of is that if anything, the airports should have a mental health professional on staff to handle the inevitable situation where a prior victim of sexual abuse is singled out, groped, and melts down right there in the airport security area. The TSA agents are not the people most endangered by this outrageous policy, and when I see videos of TSA agents strip searching children, it is obvious that the TSA has never considered the potential of what they might be doing or have already done to both child and adult victims of sexual abuse, some of whom may not be known to their parents or guardians.

I think this is far from over.

MORE STILL: Reader Jerry Bledsoe disagrees with the above:

As an admirer, libertarian and long-time reader, I’m amazed that you would present this and allow people to think it might be true.

“I am unable to justify the risk of exposing her to a situation where not only would she would be forced to submit to a stranger fondling her genitals, but my wife and I would be forced, under threat of a multi-thousand dollar fine, to “force” our child to comply. ”

That is utterly outrageous and you know it. Anybody who fondled a child’s genitals should be in prison and would be.

Is this true? I suppose the word “fondled” is an out, but the videos I’ve seen have shown clear butt-touching, and there was the 4-year-old boy forced to remove his shirt. It’s true, of course, that if the kid goes through the scanner and has no problems necessitating secondary screening, nothing will happen. But we’ve seen plenty of videos where that’s not the case. I don’t think it’s at all “outrageous” to worry about that sort of thing, though I confess it never occurred to me before the above email.

Meanwhile, reader DeDe Bright emails:

As a former manager long time ago … and also just being on this earth for 61 years, the way the TSA, the President and whoever else has implemented the new TSA standards is just awful!! These people are supposed to be smart — I question their basic common sense.

Obama complains that the reason no one likes the Health Care bill is because it wasn’t messaged right — no one did the job of “selling it to the people”. Of course that is so wrong, the people figured it out.

And then, I presume because of information they have received, a decision was made to go forward with very a very intrusive style of bodily searching. How many days has it been since they started??? And NOW they say it’s because they have information terrorists may be hiding explosives in various forms of prosthetics. Oh.

Well, they are a little late to be forthcoming with that information. At this point it doesn’t matter because just the mind frame of thinking they would suddenly and drastically change the format of these patdowns and not think it would cause a problem … or not care about how people would feel about it??? This shows a pathetic lack of understanding to the basic humanity of the American people.

Any good company knows when some new policy is coming down the pipeline the first thing that needs to happen is the educate the employees as to what is going on, describe the gravity of the situation and help them “buy into” the new procedures. In this case the “employees” are the American people.

If they thought they could get away with these procedures and the complaints not make it to the media (and therefore “sneak up on the terrorists with the new procedures”) they were not working with a full deck.

I really am not moved by TSA workers feeling bad about this. Somewhere along the line of all of this someone had to have said, “the people are going to go nuts over this” and they probably did. It was the tone deaf Obama administration that didn’t stage this in a way that would have been understood.

These are the kinds of actions that set up the failure of a company … and of an administration.

Yes, it’s funny that this was supposed to be an administration full of super-smart Great Communicators. Not so much, as it turns out.

That said, I wouldn’t be too hard on the TSA’s front-line grunts. They didn’t make the policy, and I very much doubt they were consulted on it any more than the American people were. You have a right to expect them to do their best to act professionally, but beyond that it’s — to coin a phrase — above their pay grade.

And the final question goes to reader John MacDonald: “if a lot of women showed up at the airports wearing Burkas…what kind of searches would they be doing on them?”

A lot of Americans, I suspect, think they know the answer to this question, and that’s one reason why they’re mad.

FINALLY: Reader Tim Maguire writes:

I have one comment I have to make about these TSA “front-line grunts” who are “just doing their jobs.” The upper level administrators who make who make these terrible decisions wouldn’t be able to if it weren’t for the legions of low-level staffers who are willing to just do their jobs. They are decision makers too–they decide their own limits and they have decided that sexual assault is within those limits; they are the cogs that keep the wheels of oppression churning.

Hmm. What do others think? Should I do a poll?

Comments are closed.
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