I concede that Congress has more important matters to worry about than the proper designation for a Transportation Security Administration clerk, but I have to applaud Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn’s attempt to roll back the “officer” designation, costume, and badge given to TSA security screeners.
More than two dozen House Republicans introduced legislation on Thursday that would prevent the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) from calling airport screeners “officer” unless they have gone through federal law enforcement training or are otherwise eligible for federal law enforcement benefits.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the lead sponsor of the Stop TSA’s Reach in Policy (STRIP) Act, said that TSA has essentially allowed its airport screeners to play dress-up by giving them metal badges and police-like uniforms in recent years. But she said many airport screeners have no “officer” qualifications, and should have this title removed.
The Congresswoman did not go far enough. While this is a step in the right direction and perhaps the best we can hope for from our deadbeat Congress, she had this to say about the bill:
“It is outrageous that in a post-9/11 world … the American people should have to live in fear of those whose job it is to keep us safe,” Blackburn said. “Congress has sat idly by as the TSA strip-searches 85-year-old grandmothers in New York, pats down 3-year-olds in Chattanooga and checks colostomy bags for explosives in Orlando.
“Enough is enough!…The least we can do is end this impersonation, which is an insult to real cops.”
The least we can do? I can think of a few other things…
The TSA Union quickly fired back, attacking Blackburn and her Republican colleagues:
House Republicans Should Be Ashamed of Bullying Tactics Aimed at TSA Workers
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A Republican-backed bill in the House designed to remove the officer title from federal airport screeners does nothing but add insult and disrespect to workers performing essential duties at an agency key to this country’s security, the American Federation of Government Employees said today.
“Every single member of Congress should be supporting federal employees, not trying to demean them,” AFGE National President John Gage said. “This bill has nothing of significance, certainly does nothing to add to our national security, and–at a point where Congress should be focused on the budget, economy, jobs, etc.–is a complete waste of time.
“Reps. Blackburn, Mica and their other cohorts in the House need to stop bullying the TSA workforce, and maybe just worry about doing their own jobs,” Gage said. “Instead of actually helping to fight terrorism, they are inspiring the type of unnecessary and disrespectful behavior by a few members of the public with an agenda that in fact diverts attention from securing American skies.
“These members of Congress should get an award for the biggest waste of time and money,” Gage said. “Other than maybe a Google search, it doesn’t seem like there was any research done so I guess they saved money there. But for this ridiculous bill to be developed and introduced must have required staff writing, counsel approval, trying to get cosponsors, staff briefings, and on. That’s a lot of effort for a little pettiness. I think the American public deserves to know how much of their taxpayer money went into this.
“If there are any legitimate complaints about TSA policies and procedures, take them up with the agency that created them,” Gage added. “TSA workers follow those procedures as instructed. Those who would attack workers for following procedure should think twice and maybe take up a hobby.”
AFGE is the largest federal employee union representing 625,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia, including 44,000 at TSA.
What hogwash. Gage, who I view as a scoundrel, ironically displays the same lack of ignorance that he accuses House Republicans of possessing. Notice he never addresses the content of the bill, which simply prohibits:
Using the official job title of “officer” or wearing a metal badge resembling a police badge or uniform resembling the uniform of a Federal law enforcement officer.
The sad thing is many TSOs do really believe they are law enforcement officers. This is a dangerous mindset because it causes many officers, particularly the ones who are actually retired or former law enforcement officers, to treat others with condescension and bully travelers into certain actions, like going through a full body scanner, that most of the traveling public is not aware they have a right to opt out of. When you are wearing a police costume and wearing a shiny metal badge, people tend not to question you. But we need to question the TSA.
In Germany, airport security where trousers, blazers, and neckties. I would like to see the same thing in the United States, or at least polo shirts, not the military-like costumes worn by TSA clerks today. There should be no epaulet ranks and no badges for an organization with no law enforcement power.
Perhaps more humble work attire will lead to an attitude change amongst the workers. If that happens, this bill is critical, even if there are more pressing matters for Congress to contend with.
And what rich irony this bill is called the STRIP Act–Stop TSA’s Reach In Policy Act. Count me in as a supporter.