Organized labor has plans to leverage the union-friendly atmosphere in Obama’s Washington to dig its talons deeper into our public sector workforce. Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole delivered on a promise made during his confirmation hearings to consider the issue of union representation for his employees, and has opened the door wide to allow a vote on collective bargaining. The fact that a vote is even being considered is a tremendous coup for organized labor. Pistole pointed out in a press release that 13,000 TSA employees are already paying union dues1, but this is a trifling number compared to the estimated 40,000 who would fall under union influence should collective bargaining be approved.
Pistole claims that bargaining will only apply to “non-security employment issues,”2 and that “Pay, pensions, and any form of compensation”3 will not be included. Once the deed is done, employees can decide for themselves whether or not they wish to join.
GOP lawmakers opposing the union vote are focusing on TSA security. Democrats favoring the move have taken a less plausible position, arguing that union membership makes for better employees, and thus a more secure America. Senator Joe Lieberman made the following statement in favor of collective bargaining:
I support collective bargaining for Transportation Security officers because I believe that is the path toward achieving higher job performance and, therefore, better security for our nation.4
Fellow Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin took an even stronger stance during Pistole’s confirmation hearings, asserting that a unionized TSA workforce would not only be more secure, but happier, too:
Moreover, a “smart” collective bargaining agreement would enhance national security because it would enable TSA to recruit and retain better employees. Our nation’s history with labor unions clearly teaches us that collective bargaining boosts morale, it allows employees to have a voice in their workplace, and it allows them to increase stability and professionalism. On the other hand, poor workforce management can lead directly to high attrition rates, job dissatisfaction and increased costs, which leads to gaps in aviation security. There have been reports that the TSA has low worker morale, which can undermine the agency’s mission and our national security.5
Workforce content aside, union employees cost a lot more money. In 2010, members had weekly earnings $200.00 higher than employees not represented by unions.6 36.2% of public sector employees belonged to unions in 2010. Half of all union members, both public and private, lived in six states in 2010, including California, New York, and Illinois.7 These states have one other feature in common. They are going broke, in part because of the cost of their public employee benefits.
In 2009, 28% of federal employees belonged to a union, and 33.2% had union representation.8 Pistole’s assurance that bargaining for wages and pensions will not be allowed ring hollow. Whenever a politician or bureaucrat says “no,” look out. As unions gain influence and control over our federal workforce, all bets are off. Pistole estimates that bringing in a union will result in immediate costs of $5-$8 million annually for “implementation.”9
Republican Senator Roger Wicker has proposed legislation to block the vote. This will be an early test of Republican strength against a Democratic administration that gifted us with glaring union favoritism in the GM bankruptcy, the planned deferral of Obamacare’s “Cadillac Tax,” and the bailout for public employees funded by 2010’s Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act.
Now is the time to draw a line in the sand. Democrats have successfully helped Republicans focus on security, perhaps to avoid the spending issues that are at the forefront of the GOP agenda. Lawmakers perplexed as to the best way to rid ourselves of Obamacare should give some thought as to how they will deal with organized labor’s influence when larger and larger segments of our federal workforce are unionized. Eliminating Obamacare will be difficult. Eliminating union influence will be impossible.