February 10, 2011

The Unconstitutional Power of the Transportation Security Agency and Federal Labor Unions

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. - Justice Litle, Is America’s Economic Recovery on the Whole Based on a Rotten Sham?, Daily Markets, April 20, 2010

Unions Head for Showdown With Senate Over TSA Representation

February 5, 2011

Unions that want to represent thousands of airport screeners are heading for a showdown with the Senate as early as Monday, with some lawmakers looking to revoke the collective-bargaining rights the Transportation Security Administration just granted them.

TSA Administrator John Pistole announced for the first time Friday that he would allow security officers to bargain over certain workplace conditions like shifts and assignments. The decision follows months of lobbying by the two unions vying to represent them -- screeners are set to vote next month on whether to unionize and, if so, with whom. In making his decision, Pistole vowed that the TSA "will not negotiate on security."

But that's exactly what some lawmakers are concerned about. They're worried that a big union presence through the TSA ranks could stifle the organization's flexibility when it needs to scramble in response to security threats. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., has introduced an amendment to a Federal Aviation Administration bill that would explicitly prohibit TSA screeners from collectively bargaining -- he's now looking for a vote on that as soon as Monday.

"The Obama administration's actions today to move forward on unionizing our TSA workforce with collective bargaining rights could hamper our national security," Wicker said in a statement, slamming the administration for approving the "ill-advised policy" while the Senate was considering it.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who has previously described TSA unionization as a "homeland security disaster," said the decision would benefit "union bosses and Democratic Party coffers" at the expense of American security. DeMint said the collective-bargaining rights could interfere with "minute-by-minute security decisions," forecasting an environment where union bosses have to approve vital changes.
"The Senate has the ability to reverse this political decision and put security first," he said, rallying support for Wicker's amendment.
But supporters of TSA unionization say these warnings simply are not realistic. For starters, TSA screeners would be prohibited from striking, just like other federal employees. The TSA says they would also be barred from "engaging in work slowdowns of any kind."

Under Pistole's plan, the unions would not be able to negotiate on security policies, pay, job qualifications or disciplinary standards, according to the TSA.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who supports giving the workers union rights, said Pistole's announcement marks a step toward "higher job performance and, therefore, better security for our nation."

The National Treasury Employees Union is calling on senators to vote against the Wicker amendment. According to Aviation Online Magazine, the union sent a letter Thursday to every U.S. senator in opposition to the proposal.

"This decision and the upcoming representation election at TSA will give these officers a voice in their workplace and a chance at a better future," NTEU President Colleen Kelley said in a statement, adding that the traveling public will be better served by a more professional workforce.

The NTEU is competing against the American Federation of Government Employees for the right to represent the TSA's more than 40,000 officers. More than 13,000 of them already pay dues to a union, but their representation is limited and they do not enjoy collective-bargaining rights.

The decision to grant collective-bargaining rights comes after the TSA decided against expanding a program that allowed private screeners to replace government ones at select airports. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the two decisions taken together are "all bad news for the traveler, the taxpayer and aviation security."

Pay Scales at TSA (2010)

From the TSA Website

We are unique among our fellow Federal employees because we do not use the standard GS grading system you may be familiar with. We use an "SV" grading system, which is a system of discrete grades with pay ranges that differ from GS pay ranges. These discrete grades, which are identified by letters rather than numbers, have minimum and maximum rates.

In the table below, we show the ranges for each pay band.

Pay Band Minimum Maximum
A $17,083 $24,977
B $19,570 $28,546
C $22,167 $33,303
D $25,518 $38,277
E $29,302 $44,007
F $33,627 $50,494
G $39,358 $60,982
H $48,007 $74,390
I $58,495 $90,717
J $71,364 $110,612
K $85,311 $132,237
L $101,962 $155,500
M $120,236 $155,500

The above rates are basic pay rates and do not include locality pay. 2010 basic pay rates are limited to $155,500. 2010 adjusted pay rates (base pay plus locality) are limited to $172,550.

If ever there was an indicator of just how apathetic and well trained the American public truly is, it must be this situation with TSA. Like a herd of bedraggled sheep, thousands of you forfeited your 4th and 5th amendment rights and allowed the government to irradiate you and view your virtually naked body, or allowed yourself to be subjected to an enhanced pat-down…nothing short of a sexual encounter. And for what? This is a training and conditioning exercise you fools! This has nothing to do with making us safer, national security or protecting America. It has nothing to do with making your flight safer. It has everything to do with conditioning you to accept a full body assault as long as the persons doing it are wearing a government badge. You are being trained to submit and comply. - Marti Oakley , Such a Well Behaved Herd of Sheep: TSA thanks you for allowing them to violate your rights and to assault you, PPJ Gazette, November 24, 2010

TSA Airport Screeners Get Union Rights Against Partisan Backdrop

National Public Radio
February 5, 2011

Since the creation of the Transportation Security Administration shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, its airport screeners have sought to be part of a collective bargaining unit.

The Bush Administration and congressional Republicans opposed that, however. Thus, 40,000 TSA workers continued to work without the kind of union representation some wanted.

On Friday, all that changed.

Following an TSA review of the issue, John Pistole, the agency's administrator, said screeners will now be allowed to vote on whether they want a union to collectively bargain with the agency on their behalf. (A TSA fact sheet provides good background.)

In November, the Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that TSA screeners should be allowed to vote on whether they wanted to be represented by a single union. That decision didn't give them collective bargaining rights, however. Pistole's decision changes that.

The ostensible reason the previous administration and congressional critics gave for opposing collective bargaining rights for TSA workers was a concern that could impair TSA management's flexibility to deploy workers as needed, especially during periods of heightened terrorism threats.

Organized labor suspected its ties to the Democratic Party didn't exactly help Republicans warm to the idea of thousands of TSA workers being represented by a union in negotiations either.

During the 2008 campaign, then candidate Barack Obama promised to give TSA workers bargaining rights.

The Obama Administration won't allow any union agreements to reduce air traveler security, Pistole said. From a TSA statement:

"The safety of the traveling public is our top priority and we will not negotiate on security," said TSA Administrator Pistole. "But morale and employee engagement cannot be separated from achieving superior security. If security officers vote to move forward with collective bargaining, this framework will ensure that TSA retains the capability and flexibility necessary to respond to evolving threats, and continue improving employee engagement, performance and professional development."

John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, one of two unions vying to represent workers in an election scheduled to start in March, said in a statement:

Today marks the recognition of a fundamental human right for 40,000 patriotic federal employees who have been disenfranchised since the inception of the agency.

We have come a long way since AFGE first began representing TSOs in 2001 when the union took up the fight for a federalized security officer workforce. The granting of these rights is a step in the right direction and gets us in the door. After AFGE wins the election to be the sole union at TSA, we will move immediately to the table and be ready to negotiate.

The National Treasury Employees Union which also hopes to represent TSA workers also issued a statement:

"This decision and the upcoming representation election at TSA will give these officers a voice in their workplace and a chance at a better future," said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley. "The sooner NTEU is certified as the exclusive representative of the TSA workforce, the sooner we can begin improving the lives of employees at this key agency."

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced an amendment earlier this week to the Federal Aviation Administration bill to bar TSA screeners from gaining collective bargaining rights.

An excerpt from his statement:

"The Obama Administration's actions today to move forward on unionizing our TSA workforce with collective bargaining rights could hamper our national security," said Wicker. "Earlier this week, I offered an amendment, which is currently being debated in the Senate, that would prohibit collective bargaining for TSA security screeners. Despite the fact that the Senate is considering this very issue, the Administration decided to move forward with this ill-advised policy."

No Escape from the TSA’s Sexual Molestation and Naked Body Porno Scanners

February 9, 2011

Back in January there was a healthy sign that a handful of airports around the country were saying no to the TSA and its sexual molestation searches and naked body porno scanners. Airport managers said they are opposed to the federal government telling them how to run security.

“The TSA has grown too big and we’re unhappy with the way it’s doing things,” Larry Dale, president of Orlando Sanford International Airport, told MSNBC. “My board is sold on the fact that the free enterprise system works well and that we should go with a private company we can hold directly accountable for security and customer satisfaction.”

Airports in Los Angeles, the Washington, D.C. metro area and Charlotte, N.C., were also considering telling the TSA to take a hike.

Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, encouraged the country’s 200 biggest airports to opt out. Mica said,

The TSA is a “bloated, poorly focused and top-heavy bureaucracy.”

The TSA immediately attempted to control this dangerous trend.

“TSA sets the security standards that must be followed and that includes the use of enhanced pat-downs and imaging technology, if installed at the airport,” TSA spokesperson Greg Soule said in response.

The TSA eventually offered a fig leaf to ward off disenchantment. It turned out to be nothing but a smoke screen.

“The Transportation Security Administration is still taking applications from airports looking to shift over to private security screeners, but those applications probably aren’t going anywhere, the agency explained,” reports Government Security News.

In addition, the TSA declared that sexual molestation searches and dangerous naked body porno scanners to be the iron-clad rule of the day that cannot be deviated from.

“You may recall a recent post where I wrote about the TSA contract screener program. I posted because many were under the wrong impression that screening from contractors is or would be different than federal screening. The post explained how airports that opt out of TSA screening are still regulated by TSA. In a nutshell, the screening is the same,” explains “Blogger Bob” on the TSA blog.

On January 28, TSA boss John S. Pistole said that he had decided not to expand the contract screener program because he did “not see any clear or substantial advantage to do so.” Mr. Pistole said airports that “currently use contractor screening will continue to be regulated by TSA and required to meet our high security standards.”

In short, there will be no escape from federal Gestapo zones where sexual humiliation and submission to the state are the order of the day.

Obama’s initial choice to head up the TSA was Robert Harding, who wanted to turn the TSA into a military intelligence operation that would expand to bus and train stations. Fortunately, Harding was rejected, but that did not stop Pistole’s TSA from implementing intrusive pat-downs and naked body scanners.

On Sunday, the TSA in partnership with a military contractor and the private sector – the very essence of fascism – gave us a glimpse of the future during the Super Bowl.

“Everyone entering the stadium must pass through a magnetometer, such as those used at airports, and get a pat down as part of the screening process. The majority of fans will enter through checkpoints on the east side of Cowboys Stadium,” reported the Dallas Star-Telegram on Friday.
An array of high-tech surveillance technology was used on fans.

The electronic panopticon used at the event, however, was just the beginning. Homeland Security is also developing technology to be used at “security events” which purports to monitor “malintent” on behalf of an individual who passes through a checkpoint. Similar programs are in use at 161 airports around the country.

John Pistole has made it perfectly clear that when you travel you will be subjected to humiliation and made to submit to the government. The feds will not allow private airlines and airports to hire their own security.

As noted above, the TSA and DHS are itching to extend their reach to sports stadiums, malls, train and bus stations, and all public areas. America is rapidly becoming little different than the Soviet Union or East Germany with its notorious Stasi.

Those Who Do Not Learn from History are Condemned to Repeat It

New Horizons
Originally Published in November/December 1997

The horrors of the past half century have left their mark on the human psyche. Hitler's ovens, Stalin's Gulag, the killing fields of Cambodia -- and more recently the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, the massacres of Rwanda, the Sudan. Such murderous conduct is now all too familiar, seen nightly on our Television screens. It's not new, of course.

History records numerous similar cameos of the destructiveness of human behavior. There's a recurring pattern that mankind fails to shake off century after century, millennium after millennium. The imminent future is no different. For, as long as we give way to our unreconstructed human nature, the pattern will repeat.

But why believe Bible predictions any more than the hit-and-miss guesses of clairvoyants and astrologers? Simply because the evidence is there that previous Bible predictions have never failed. Awesome times lie ahead for the human race. Unprecedented wars, famine, disease -- mass destruction on a worldwide scale is coming. Can you imagine looking skyward and seeing the sun reel? Can you imagine the effects of our planet rolling to and fro in its orbit like a drunk? Or the deaths of literally billions of our fellow human-beings? Or great mountainous asteroids tearing into our continents and oceans? Such events are prophesied.

Burned into the Western consciousness is the horrific genocide inflicted in civilized Europe a mere half century ago. The "Holocaust" and its myriad victims -- and just one Jew was too many -- is folk memory now. But it must be seen as a dread warning of what man does to man. Recent history confirms 1939-1945 was no mere historical blip. History is set to repeat itself!

For every human trait that deserves the correcting hand of a God of love is still writ -- larger than ever -- in every nation. Man's perverse conduct flies in the face of the benign instruction -- the Law of God -- which alone is the path of harmonious relations between man and man, nation and nation. The apostle Paul looked down the ages and foresaw our day. Here's how he described it:
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Quite a snapshot of modern society!

26 Similarities Between America and Nazi Germany

Originally Published in January 2008

Brannon Howse - Even the most nominally aware person knows all too well that our nation—and the world—is engulfed in a major economic catastrophe. Thanks to the variety of factors at work, some observers have characterized it as the perfect economic storm.

Yet this drama is a mere thunder shower by comparison with a far more devastating potential that threatens to wreck not just the American dream but the entire American ideal. If this maelstrom reaches its full power, liberty and justice for all—to say nothing of the pursuit of happiness—will be wiped from the face of the earth.

A perfect cultural storm is developing from the convergence of three forces, any one of which would seriously harm our way of life. But together they portend the near certain doom of the most cherished American values.

Socialism, pagan spirituality, and pragmatism have come together over the last several decades to produce a cataclysm waiting to happen.
  1. Socialism imposes the redistribution of wealth and private property through an all-powerful, freedom-robbing central government.

  2. Pagan spirituality embraces the worship of nature along with occult practices and beliefs.

  3. Pragmatism proclaims that the truth or worth of an idea is based solely upon the results it brings (pragmatists believe that truth is relative, situational, and that a desired end justifies any means required to reach it).
All three of these political, spiritual, and intellectual systems have taken a dominant place in the American worldview . . .

House Passes $42.3 Billion Homeland Security Funding Bill

  • boosts airport screening operations undertaken by private companies instead of federal workers
  • cuts off funding for new advanced airport scanners but won't affect the 500 or so machines already in place at 78 of the nation's airports or the 500 just funded in a recent spending bill
  • limits union rights but retains collective bargaining rights for the nation's 44,000 airport screeners; however, amendment would effectively override decision by prohibiting use of federal funds for collective bargaining for the workers
June 3, 2011

AP - The GOP-controlled House on Thursday passed a $42.3 billion budget for the government's homeland security efforts after a debate that demonstrated resistance for some of the spending cuts required under austere budget times.

The measure passed 231-188 after lawmakers eased cuts to popular grant programs for local fire departments and after GOP conservatives tried but failed in several attempts to add millions of dollars to a variety of border security initiatives.

It's the first of the 12 annual spending bills funding the day-to-day operations of federal agencies for the budget year beginning Oct. 1. It's also the first concrete step to implement the budget blueprint approved by House Republicans in April.

The homeland security measure bears a $1.1 billion cut of almost 3 percent from the spending levels for the ongoing budget year that were enacted in April in a compromise between House Republicans and President Barack Obama.

But far more stringent spending bills — they contain cuts to health research, student aid, food aid for low-income pregnant women and energy efficiency programs — will follow this summer.

Republicans focused the homeland security cuts on port and transit security grants, awards for high-risk cities, and grants to local fire departments to help them with salaries and equipment purchases, proposing to slash them by $2.1 billion below Obama's requests — cuts of more than half.

On Wednesday a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers restored $320 million in cuts to grants for fire departments by a sweeping 333-87 vote, but only by imposing an unrealistic cut on the agency's bureaucratic operations.

Border state Republicans like Reps. Ted Poe and Michael McCaul of Texas were less successful in attempts to add money to favored programs. Poe sought $100 million for detention beds to hold illegal aliens facing deportation and $10 million for cell phone towers along the U.S.-Mexico border. McCaul pressed for, among others, a $50 million amendment for drone aircraft, helicopters and boats to patrol the border. The amendments were ruled out of order under House rules.

The cuts to grant programs freed up funding for core homeland security programs like border security, immigration control, airport security and the Coast Guard. An amendment by Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., designed to boost airport screening operations undertaken by private companies instead of federal workers was adopted 219-204.

The measure adds almost $2 billion above the administration's request for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief accounts, which were already facing a $3 billion or so shortfall before the recent wave of tornadoes in Missouri and Alabama and flooding along the Mississippi River.

The legislation cuts off funding for new advanced airport scanners that have sparked outrage over their revealing images of travelers' bodies. The measure denies the administration's $76 million request for an additional 275 scanners.

Budgetary factors rather than protests from privacy advocates sparked the cut. The Transportation Security Administration is trying hard to modify the machines so that they won't produce revealing images, but the software isn't yet ready.

The underlying measure wouldn't affect the 500 or so machines already in place at 78 of the nation's airports or the 500 just funded in a recent spending bill.

An amendment by Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to prohibit TSA from relying on the advanced screening machines as the primary means of screening passengers was defeated 300-123. The measure would also take away collective bargaining rights from the nation's 44,000 airport screeners.

TSA head John Pistole had agreed in February to grant screeners limited union rights for the first time since the agency was formed a decade ago. But Republicans have complained that giving the workers union rights could jeopardize security. TSA workers are in the process of voting for which of two federal unions to represent them.

The House voted 218-205 in favor of an amendment that would effectively override Pistole's decision by prohibiting use of federal funds for collective bargaining for the workers. That provision is expected to face stiff resistance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Also Thursday, the House began debate on a $72.5 billion measure funding veterans programs and construction projects at military bases. A vote to pass the bill was expected Friday.

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