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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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It was only when the “underwear bomber” tried blowing up a passenger jet over Detroit that the TSA, and its lack of a leader, suddenly became an issue. But in a strange twist of logic, DeMint used the occasion to prove his point, telling reporters that the underwear bomber was “a perfect example of why the Obama administration should not unionize the TSA.” Rather than apologizing for keeping the TSA leaderless that year, he scolded Obama to “put the interests of American travelers ahead of organized labor.”

Like Reason’s Robert Poole, FreedomWorks’ Dick Armey, and numerous other right-wing Republicans and libertarians, DeMint played the “national security threat” card to justify his opposition to collective bargaining rights for TSA screeners, claiming it would "significantly undermine TSA's ability to respond to threats and protect the nation."

It’s a false line of reasoning: Other law enforcement agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, including Customs and Border Protection guards, are unionized, as are police department employees across the nation. The real threat to security, of course, comes from the savage workplace conditions that TSA screeners endure. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), who brought this issue before Congress in 2009, said, "If you have someone stabbing you in the back, if you have sex harassment charges against you, your mind is not going to be on the job. And this is a job where you have to be alert. All the time."

The only people who saw unions as a threat to their existence were, of course, the Republicans. As if to illustrate this, one of Tom Ridge’s earliest acts in office at the newly-created Homeland Security Department in 2002 was to denounce a Longshore workers’ strike in Oakland as a threat to national security, and demand they call off the strike immediately.

But DeMint, to whom David Koch personally awarded a “George Washington Prize” for leading the fight to kill Obama's health insurance reform plan, laid out the stakes in his 2009 book Saving Freedom: “Labor unions are one of the most powerful forces in Washington, and they support Democrats almost exclusively,” he wrote. Cheerfully noting that private sector unions have long since declined to the point of near-irrelevancy, DeMint ominously observes, “more than 35 percent of government workers are members of a union.” That means union dues for Democratic candidates, and in return, “The Democratic Party reciprocates by shamelessly promoting the union agenda in Congress.”

Just as Bush and the rest of the GOP prioritized politics over security concerns in 2001, DeMint chose to hold up and eventually defeat Obama’s first two nominees, both African-Americans, to head the TSA. It wasn’t until Obama nominated someone with solid conservative credentials -- the FBI’s number two, John Pistole -- that DeMint finally relented. Pistole was a crapshoot. Neither labor nor the anti-labor right was pleased, yet neither side knew exactly where he would come down on unionization.

And then last November, everything suddenly came to a head. First, the Republicans swept Congressional elections, and they wasted little time in setting the new agenda. Then, on November 12, after years of setbacks and disappointments, the Federal Labor Relations Board issued a surprise ruling (even to labor organizers) finally giving TSA employees the green light to unionize.

But Labor barely had time to celebrate: the very next day, November 13, Matt Drudge posted and promoted the famous “Don’t Touch My Junk” video, which quickly turned into the media sensation of the season, hogging headlines for nearly two straight weeks. Almost no one found it strange that the cause of civil liberties was suddenly taken up, in almost perfect unison, by the whole range of right-wing waterboarding-cheerleaders like Glenn Beck, George Will and his colleague Charles Krauthammer, who declared:

 
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