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America's Outrage Over TSA Naked Body Scanners Fits Right into Libertarian PR Project to Prevent Workers from Unionizing

The right fears nothing more than unionized workers, and found a cunning way to scapegoat workers to derail a campaign to organize the TSA.

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The anti-TSA campaign was at its media-hysteria peak in the weeks after the Republican election sweep, spurred on by last year’s hero, John Tyner, who refused a pat-down, telling TSA agents, “You touch my junk and I'm going to have you arrested.” Tyner disappeared from the scene after he apologized on his blog, and admitted that he didn't tell the whole story and had actively tried to erase it (Tyner did not return our call or answer our message requesting comment; see updated note below). *  But the slack was quickly picked up by waves of anti-TSA campaigns ever since, drawing together an alliance of rabid Christian homophobes and neo-Confederates, warmongering neocons and notorious anti-union lobbying outfits, and even a few blasts-from-the-right-wing- past, like the Rutherford Institute’s John Whitehead, a onetime Christian “reconstructionist” who all but disappeared after running Paula Jones’ sexual-harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Whitehead, whose outfit once advocated the death penalty for homosexuals, recently re-emerged in the public eye leading several high-profile lawsuits against the TSA. ** (Editor's Update: Rutherford Institute has challenged this assertion, and Ames and Levine have written a response posted at the bottom of this article) Bob Barr, onetime Republican Congressman and Libertarian Party presidential candidate, added the anti-TSA campaign to his client list in his new gig as a DC lobbyist, joining Haiti dictator “Baby” Doc Duvalier as well as for-profit education. Others include the homophobic Public Advocate of the United States, a Reagan-era anti-gay group, whose leader accused the TSA of pursuing a “homosexual agenda” with its enhanced pat-downs and scans, echoing charges by the leader of the Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, who called for a prohibition of gay TSA screeners because they “might get turned on” while patting down passengers.

To understand why such a diverse range of right-wing Republicans -- many of whom had previously shown little interest in civil liberties, if not outright hostility to them -- would suddenly unite last November to rage against the porn-scanner machine, a brief history on the TSA, unions, and their struggle for collective bargaining rights is in order:

Until 9/11, the task of managing America’s airport screeners was left to the private sector, which squeezed profits by hiring low-qualified, poorly-trained screeners willing to work for at or near minimum wages, making pre-TSA airport  screeners among the lowest-paid security workers in the nation, according to one investigation .

After 9/11, the frightened and traumatized public demanded better security in the form of higher-quality, better-paid federal screeners. The private sector, as in so many instances, could not be trusted to put the public’s interests over the CEOs’ profit interests. But President Bush and the Republicans resisted the public’s demands: They worried less about security, and more about creating a brand new federal agency for airport screeners, whose employees would likely unionize. At a time when most Americans were still too traumatized to pay attention to such seemingly arcane bureaucratic issues, the Bush White House had Iraq invasions and union-busting hot on its mind.

Their logic then was the same as it is today: If TSA employees are allowed to unionize with collective bargaining rights, it would represent perhaps the single largest pro-unionization drive in decades, adding tens of thousands of dues-paying members to the public sector union rolls, reversing decades of decline and, most importantly, funnel money to pro-labor and predominately Democratic candidates. Former House Majority Leader and current FreedomWorks head Dick Armey, who voted against federalizing airport screeners, explained in 2001, ''It's all about union membership in a union that imposes compulsory dues that fund their campaigns.” Of course, this is just another classic right-wing anti-union lie: dues aren’t compulsory as they like to allege. But Armey’s fixation on those union dues was real -- the Republicans would rather staff airport security with rent-a-cops and burger-flippers than risk enabling unions to collect dues and spend them on political campaigns.

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