December 29th, 2009
12:18 PM ET
6 months ago

DeMint defends blocking appointment of TSA chief

DeMint is blocking the appointment of a new TSA chief out of unionization concerns.
DeMint is blocking the appointment of a new TSA chief out of unionization concerns.

Washington (CNN) - Elected officials on Capitol Hill are planning to hold hearings in January to investigate the safety gaps in airline security, made more pronounced since the attempted bombing over Detroit on Christmas Day.

But one important officeholder, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, likely won't be present at any of the hearings - simply because his nomination is being blocked in the Senate.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, has been holding up the confirmation of Erroll Southers to be TSA chief, in an effort to prevent TSA employees from joining a labor union. Southers is a former FBI special agent and counterterrorism expert.

"The attempted terror attack in Detroit is a perfect example of why the Obama Administration should not unionize the TSA and allow our airline security decisions to be dictated by union bosses," DeMint said in a statement. "I hope this incident will lead the President to re-think this policy and put the interests of American travelers ahead of organized labor."

DeMint points to inefficiencies that will arise from the organizing of TSA employees, which he says may ultimately jeopardize the safety of Americans, such as the inability of rewarding exceptional screeners and firing those who are underperforming, the inflexibility to change protocols as emergency situations arise, and the need to require more collective bargaining as new safety mechanisms create new job descriptions.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid contends that Democrats "have been trying to confirm Mr. Southers" since his nomination was approved by two separate Senate committees.

"Sadly the Republican obstructionism of just one person, Senator Demint, prevented TSA from having the leadership in place that the organization deserves," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.

But the largest organizer of transportation security officers, the American Federation of Government Employees, disagrees with DeMint's central claims against unionization – citing the unobstructed cooperation by union members of both the New York City police and fire departments in the aftermath of the September 11attacks.

"This is not an issue of security. There is no evidence that labor rights have any effect on transportation security officers," said Emily Ryan, spokeswoman for AFGE.

AFGE represents 12,000 of TSA's nearly 40,000 transportation security officers in many personnel matters, while also overseeing the broader collective bargaining of nearly 40,000 other government employees at the Department of Homeland Security, including the Coast Guard, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"This is a dedicated workforce who see their jobs as important to the security of the nation," said Ryan.

While Southers' nomination is being blocked, there is an acting administrator of the TSA running the agency.


Filed under: Jim DeMint
soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. Liberatarian

    Does this guy realize it does NOT matter who is in charge of the TSA as to whether the employees can unionize or not? It's not up to the "management" of the TSA......this is a free country and the right to unionize won't be blocked even if BUSH was in charge of the TSA. This is a very weakly veiled ploy for the Senator to get some air time and an "atta boy" from the RNC.

    December 29, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  2. JonDie

    Ridge: "Terror suspect doesn't deserve 'full range' of rights"

    Tom Ridge is another enemy of the United States as well as a friend to our enemies.

    The United States is a country of laws and traditions, not a country of arbitrary dictators and their whims, regardless of what the anti-democracy movement led by Mr. Ridge says.

    The accused Nigerian doesn't deserve these rights, but neither do people like Tom Ridge, who was simply lucky enough to be born here but who does not share basic American values.

    December 29, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  3. voter

    because of the narrow minded views of the gop who don't want to protect workers rights, he is risking the national security of the country. wow good going gop. nice job in putting country first (sarcasm). such hypocrites. the gop has the audacity to tout that they can better protect the country. please last time I checked 911 happened during their watch. now they refuse to appoint the nominee for the tsa. this does not sound to me that they are putting country first.

    December 29, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  4. No Incumbents 2010

    There is no excuse for denying qualified appointees from taking their positions. Deminted's obstructionist attacks on TSA workers do nothing more than demoralize the very people who ensure our air safety.

    December 29, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  5. alfonso

    Mr. Demit, is missing the point, and only look msgide the USA citizen's

    December 29, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  6. Walter

    So much for the Republican high ground on terrorism. Their hatred of working class Americans has become so pathological that they would rather see the TSA go without permanent leadership than see TSA employees have the right to organize.

    It is things like this that convince me that conservatism is actually a form of mental illness.

    December 29, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  7. Jay, Illinois

    Republicans are becoming demented in their correlation of things to create talking points. "The attempted terror attack in Detroit is a perfect example of why the Obama Administration should not unionize the TSA and allow our airline security decisions to be dictated by union bosses," DeMint said in a statement. "I hope this incident will lead the President to re-think this policy and put the interests of American travelers ahead of organized labor."

    What on Earth does one have to do with the other? Typical Republican idiot putting private industry interests above the needs of the many and trying to link completely unrelated things while trying to attack the current Administration.

    It's crazy and so tragic how these stupid Republicans even get elected into office.

    December 29, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  8. Allen Hussein

    Why does Senator DeMint think unionized American workers pose a greater threat to national security than Al Queda?

    December 29, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  9. john

    Senator DeMint is my Senator and I am glad someone is taking a stand against the Chicago type thuggery of unionization of everything the socialist Obama Administration wants to carry out.

    December 29, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. redleg

    We had more jihadi terrorists on US planes after TSA than before.

    December 29, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. Tricia DeFalls

    If you are so concerned that Republicans (senators or not) are a problem, run for office, lobby, but don't sit around and complain. Yeah it is your right, but it is getting old

    December 29, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. Dyan, Minnesota

    If you're blaming DeMint, you've missed the point. There is absolutely no reason why Reid should allow a minority to hold up votes and nominations. Republicans certainly never allowed that to happen.

    I have two words for Harry Reid and the other spineless Democrats.......... nuclear option. Go ask your Republican opponents how it works. If it worked for them, it'll work for you assuming you have the guts.

    December 29, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  13. GOP hypocrisy with our Nation's security.......

    How dare Jim DeMint delay and disregard appointments that would expedite the security of our country against terrorists over concern for security employees' benefits and pay being lowered. This is a complete outrage from yet another Bozo from South Carolina.....
    We need to see that he loses his seat in the next election...........

    December 29, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6