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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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In 2004,  four top TSA managers at Seattle-Tacoma International were fired  following an investigation into complaints of mismanagement and harsh working conditions. That same year, in Spokane International Airport, three top TSA managers were removed following a petition that TSA employees sent to Sen. Patty Murray, complaining that TSA "leaders intimidated workers and engaged in personal and unprofessional relationships with others." At Pittsburgh International Airport in 2005, the top three TSA officials were forced to resign after being investigated for sexual harassment, fraud, and intimidation. One screener told PBS Newshour in 2003, “When you have a supervisor go in front of 200 employees and tell them he's looking for blonde-hair leads and supervisors, I have problems. I don't have blonde hair. I have graduated from college. There are no promotions for people of color.”

In Bush’s final year in office, the TSA inspector general issued an alarming report saying that employee morale was so rock-bottom that it was negatively impacting airport security .  

A week before the 2008 presidential elections, Barack Obama sent a letter to AFGE union leaders pledging to support their drive to unionize the TSA if elected president. But as with so many issues, President Obama’s support turned out to be far more tepid than candidate Obama’s, while in the Republican camp, opposition hardened under the leadership of two Tea Party heroes, Jim DeMint and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah.  

Rep. Chaffetz's first piece of legislation, which he introduced in April 2009, was a bill to limit the use of TSA body-imaging scanners on the grounds that it they were an “invasion of privacy.” Chaffetz’s bill attracted the support of the ACLU and Democrats from across the aisle. As soon as he was done crusading against the TSA’s civil liberties violations, Chaffetz hopped on a plane to Guantanamo Bay on a fact-finding mission, and reported that civil liberties were thriving like never before in the extra-legal internment camp: “Guantanamo Bay has been inaccurately portrayed as a site of  ongoing detainee torture and mistreatment – nothing could be further  from the truth,” Chaffetz wrote in an open letter to President Obama. “[C]ontrary to popular belief, waterboarding never happened at Guantanamo Bay.” As proof, Chaffetz’s letter cheerfully noted that Guantanamo inmates “have access to hundreds of movies such as Oceans 13, Liar Liar, and Finding Nemo.” Inmates were so pampered that even their hunger strikes tasted delicious: “We go to great lengths to see that their nutritional needs are met, even offering a variety of flavored liquid nutrients to detainees participating in hunger strikes.”  

In September 2009, shortly after Chaffetz voted to prohibit TSA employees from unionizing, he made headlines in a bizarre airport incident in which he claimed he had been targeted for retaliatory harassment by Salt Lake City Airport screeners. But Chaffetz’s story started to fall apart after local news reported that Chaffetz himself acted aggressively and “escalated the situation” by cursing a TSA screener, throwing his card at one, and grabbing a TSA employee’s badge. But that did not stop Chaffetz: Last November, in the peak of the anti-TSA hysteria, the Congressman seized on a completely false story pushed by ultra-rightwing Hollywood clown Andrew Breitbart and the Drudge Report alleging that the TSA had forcibly strip-searched a young boy. Despite the fact that the boy’s father confirmed that it was not true, Chaffetz wouldn’t let it die, going as far as calling for a Congressional investigation .

Meanwhile in the Senate, Tea Party “king” Jim DeMint single-handedly staved off the threat of unionization by filibustering Obama’s nominees to head the TSA, ensuring that the agency created to prevent another 9/11 remained headless for nearly 1-1/2 years. Obama’s first nominee, Errol Southers, was held up by DeMint throughout all of 2009 because Southers refused to come out against collective bargaining.

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