Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blocking the Exits

The Airport Advisory Board, in a memo responding to my questions about exploring a private option for handling passenger screenings at Colorado Springs Airport, recently recommended against replacing TSA. The costs and complications of making the change far outweigh any tangible benefits, in terms of improved service, according to the board. Relatively few passenger complaints have been heard at COS. And relations between TSA and airport managers have been good, according to the memo.

Fair enough. That no doubt will please those on council who do everything possible to not rock the boat. I still think the question was worth asking. I fear the situation will deteriorate once TSA screeners gain collective bargaining rights and the union ethos -- which I know first-hand thanks to nearly two years as a card-carrying member of the United Auto Workers -- seeps deep into the bureaucracy's pores. Airports should at least have an option regarding TSA, in my opinion, even if they don't take it, this being a free country and all.

Such discussions just became completely irrelevant, however, because Moscow .. . . sorry, I meant Washington . . . last week slammed the door on the option, by declaring that no more airports will be allowed to go private. That doesn't sit well with certain members of Congress, including the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who say Congress wrote an opt-out clause into the original legislation for a reason, so the last word on this has not been heard. Maybe a sharp reduction in TSA funding will lead to a change of heart. But the move drew loud cheers from the National Treasury Employees Union, which hates private sector competition and wants to turn every airport screening station in America into a union shop. Just think of the efficiency and improvement in work ethic and service that will bring.

There's no evidence that private screeners are less competent than federal screeners. I'm aware of no security breaches linked to airports opting-out. The 16 airports that contract-out these services (which suggests to me that there must be some benefit) seem perfectly happy with the choice they made. So why wouldn't Moscow . . . . there I go again, sorry . . . permit the expansion of a program that seems to be working well?

That could be the first problem: It's working well. Or this could just be another case of heavy-handed Washington lording it over the peons beyond the beltway. A third possibility suggests itself, however -- that this union-friendly White House fears a stampede of airports to the exits once collective bargaining rights are finally granted TSA workers, which could really put a dent in the union dues collected by organizations that gave (and will give) a lot of campaign money to Barack Obama

Could this administration's motives for slamming the door on the private option really be that base, that tawdry, that self-serving? Could this really be just another way for the White House to throw Big Labor a bone? With no better explanation to offer, that's the one I'm going with for now.

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