TSA should not unionize

It is no secret that unions reward longevity over performance, and protect employees from being disciplined for cause. Most collective bargaining agreements limit the ability for a hard worker to earn a raise or promotion unless they have reached a seniority based on time. The outcome of this paradigm is that workers are offered little incentive to achieve beyond the status quo. Bad employees are protected from dismissal while good employees are marginalized.

So what would happen if you introduced this model to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)? More horrific airport experiences, potential screener protests and bad agents being protected at the expense of the good.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been inundated with dreadful stories from airports across the nation. This led to a policy-based argument on the screening measures being rolled out by the current administration. Sure, the administration rolled out new methods without a cohesive public affairs strategy or a causal explanation by national leaders, but that wasn’t the whole problem. Part of the problem was that some people are simply bad at their jobs.

Some TSA agents didn’t follow proper procedures, or they lacked the sense to know when to be flexible, like when a bladder cancer survivor named Tom Sawyer was forced to board a plane in Detroit, Michigan, last week with the contents of his urostomy bag (urine) covering him.

TSA Administrator John Pistole called Mr. Sawyer and apologized. But what happened to the agent who allowed this to happen? And more importantly, what would happen if the agent was protected by a collective bargaining agreement?

I happened to fly into Detroit Metropolitan Airport with my family for Thanksgiving.

Departing out of Baltimore, Maryland, I was concerned that passengers would “opt out” or protest, causing unnecessary delays and havoc. However, I was pleasantly surprised at Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport when the line moved swiftly and the TSA personnel were gracious, professional and clearly trained.

On my return flight out of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, things went poorly. I witnessed the poorly trained and rude personnel of Detroit TSA who did not follow procedures and acted in an abusive and offensive manner. As if my beloved hometown of Detroit needed more PR problems.

Upon entering a Millimeter Wave machine, after receiving inconsistent instructions on what clothes to take off and what not to, my boarding pass was taken by an agent. Upon exiting, and without warning, the agent cupped his hand around, er, an area he shouldn’t have been cupping, and began rooting around at my own horror and embarrassment. No cause was given for a secondary screening, if one was even taking place.

The agent lost my boarding pass, and a boorish supervisor was quick to tell me to move along and stop asking questions. My wife’s bag was searched without her knowledge or presence and returned in a disheveled pile. (When asked his name, the supervisor would only say “John” and refused to show identification).

I still don’t even know if I had a “secondary screening” or if the agent just had a personal curiosity about what was under my pants. While not comparable to Mr. Sawyer’s experience, I did quickly understand why emotions have been running high in airports for weeks.