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The Circle Bastiat

TSA unionization may open floodgates

More than 40,000 TSA workers were given collective bargaining rights last month. Will this make unionizing more widespread?

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Like entrepreneurs who deal with government regulation day-to-day in order to conduct business, those us who fly regularly learn how to navigate as efficiently as possible the borders the TSA has erected in every airport around the country. Movies like Up In The Air and commercials for National Car Rental highlight the skills of the frequent flier, “You are a business pro, executor of efficiency. You can spot an amateur a mile away, while going shoeless and metal free in seconds.”

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Business Pro meet the dues-paying, attitude and card-carrying union “worker,” member of America’s middle class. You may be able to check in online, have your boarding pass on your iPod, but then there’s the Big Blue Border. No technology allowed here: it’s plastic tubs and standing around. Over time it will become trickier to transverse the wall of blue that is a thicket of uniforms “guided by the basic principle that dress and appearance should promote esprit de corps within the workforce while instilling trust and confidence in the public. The uniform, in particular, is to stand as a readily identifiable symbol of the security mission and role of the TSO in executing the agency’s core values: integrity, innovation, and team spirit,” the TSA website rhapsodizes.

In another decade the political discussion will not be framed as to whether passengers can actually fly without steering through a government checkpoint at all. Those on the right will argue as to how the TSA must be made more efficient and cost the taxpayers less but be ever present to keep us safe. On the other side of the aisle the argument will be about respect for government workers and proper working conditions. It is only a matter of time before airline schedules must take into account TSA shift changes and staffing levels.

As the TSA bureaucracy grows, it will mean a slow death to the business pro road warrior. Face-to-face will be driven out of style and today’s young people are ready: Facebook meetings, Skype and who knows what.

And then, the TSA really will be Thousands Standing Around.

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