TSA Workers, It's Time to Take Action

A New York Times op-ed calls for a 'good old-fashioned strike'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2019 6:00 PM CST
TSA Workers, It's Time to Take Action
A Transportation Security Administration officer works at a checkpoint at Miami International Airport, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Miami.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Thousands of TSA officers are calling in sick as the government shutdown enters week four, but is that protest enough? Maybe not: "TSA workers should use last year's teachers' strikes as a model," Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Stevenson write in the New York Times. "They were called not by the leadership of the teachers' unions but by the rank and file." Ehrenreich and Stevenson—a political activist and a former labor organizer, respectively—argue that Transportation Security Administration workers should hit the picket lines rather than keep working without pay. Yes, it would be illegal for the federal employees to strike, but the 13 Amendment to the Constitution clearly bans involuntary servitude, and the US government "has broken its contract with its employees." So why not?

Well, the ghost of air traffic controllers hangs in the air; many recall President Reagan firing 11,000 who struck in 1981 over working conditions and wages, causing unions to retreat "into a defensive crouch." On the upside, TSA workers could rally public support against "an unpopular president" who has "arbitrarily plunged nearly a million families into financial jeopardy and in some cases poverty." Sure, some travelers may not believe that shoe and laptop inspections really protect them, but how about airplane repairs and inspections? "The time has come for a genuine, old-fashioned strike, one with picket lines, chants, quickened pulses and the power to reignite the traditional fighting spirit of American labor," they write. Click for the full op-ed. (Meanwhile, one traveler got through a TSA checkpoint with a gun.)

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