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. Tony T

    Good move, that's all we need are lazy union workers who have nothing to fear about losing their jobs supposedly protecting us. I am in favor of making those jobs higher paying and only taking the best people. Lets not dumb it down so we can be held hostage with union tactics and strikes. Lets start thinking, money talks, attracts better people. If you do a good job, you don't need anyone protecting you.

    December 29, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  2. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Why would DeMint put Americans at risk because he is afraid of unions? They are not the terrorists, they are what is left of the middle class after the Bush/Cheney administration.

    Does the idiot DeMint mean the union army in 1965?

    December 29, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  3. Big Ed

    Another Republican who puts party politics ahead of doing the work for the American public. The Party of "NO!" is alive and well, bringing damage and chaos to a city near you!

    December 29, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. QACoach

    Sounds to me like the individual taking actions to weaken our security is Sen. DeMint...and of course the insane tack of the GOP to block anything related to Obama or the Democrats.

    Shame on you, Senator! We demand you release your death grip on our freedom and security!

    December 29, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. duke

    demint is a moron just like all the other southern republican senators.the party of no really is the party of no brains. god bless america and president obama and harry reid and nancy pelosi.

    December 29, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  6. Chris

    All the TSA is asking for is the RIGHT TO VOTE as to whether they would like to organize a union. Republicans, as always, are against anyone having rights. If the TSA has rights, soon they will want more freedom, and that goes against everything that the republican party stands for.

    December 29, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. Jane/Seattle

    There is Always a Plan (i.e. Excuse) for Deniability in Place! This is ALL a thinly disguised smokescreen to attack anything Union that Could Ever threaten this Systems grip on enslaving us further! That we humans might like something to say about our collective impoverishment or FATES is just unthinkable when these so-called "Leaders" work for the real Bossman – Big Money! What a bunch of fakes! It is breath-taking to think that some folks are so seriously Duped that they follow these Looney Tunes who are Chasing Armageddon! So far WARFARE is Winning Over Peace. We need to expose, change, Rise UP to tell them NO MORE! Get thee behind me, Satan! Jesus is said (in the book men wrote) to have said this and WE can say it, too! Have an Enlightening Day!

    December 29, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. Clint

    Senator Dimentia, stop putting your party and ideology before your country. The refusal by GOP members of Congress to try to make this country work in these difficult times will be their, and your, Waterloo.

    December 29, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. chill

    Another case of twisted logic from DeMint. One-man holds on candidates for government office are ridiculous. The man is clearly qualified and DeMint is playing with the security of the country beacuse he hates unions. There are clearly ways to segregate security decisons from economic employment issues and even outlaw strikes. Police departments all over the country are unionized without jeopardizing public safety. Grow up and act you age Senator. We have important business to attend to.

    December 29, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    If I read the original news story, then the "terror attack" actually occured because he was able to board in Amsterdam....which is the responsibility of the Dutch! Maybe we should have the Coast Guard doing the security checks since they are part of the Dept of Transportation.

    December 29, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  11. Ben in Texas

    Sen. Dimwit is more concerned with limiting the rights of American workers than he is with combating terrorists. He knows who his bosses are: Corporations, who hate unions. Not the American people, who pay his salary.

    December 29, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  12. Jeff

    So while an alleged terror attack is taking place in Detroit, Mr. DeMint wants to play politics with the proposed head of the agency designed to prevent such attacks. The guy (Southers) is a former FBI counterterroism expert and you want to hold up his nomination? Great job looking out for the people Mr. DeMint! I certainly hope an attack doesn't happen on YOUR watch.

    December 29, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. Eli

    Here's Jim DeMint at his hypocritical, manipulative worst. There's absolutely no evidence that unionized TSA workers wouldn't be every bit as good, or even better, than non-unionized ones: people tend to work better when they feel they're not being abused or exploited. But Jim DeMint is a doctrinaire conservative who opposes labor unions in any situation, so here he goes, putting his personal interests before the national interest. Could he be any more cynical or unpatriotic?

    December 29, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. carlos

    he is for sure DEMENTED as are all the repugnants.......IQ's below plant level.....doesn't say much for them, does it????

    December 29, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. southerncousin

    Agree with DeMint. Labor unions have killed jobs and companies all over this country, it's all part of the dumbing down process of the liberals. They would go on strike at Christmas and other vital times, demand twice the pay for half the work, destroy productivity and innovation, be surly. Look at NEA, AFSCME and some of these other unions that have reared their lazy, ugly head in government functions.

    December 29, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  16. John jr

    What is it with these obstructionists?? Union bosses running things what??? My god with maybe 12% of labor organized one would think this South carolina MORON ciould come up with something legitimate for a change! Maybe we should contract it out tosomethimething like Adecco they can take eveything from the employees and not give anything even a pay raise back. Oh wait that is the republican evangelical Chrisitan thing to do i for got. this nob needs to get over it andlet TSA have the leadership it needs. If anything it shows how meddling by the republicans can allow terroism to poke out by not allowing great leadership.

    December 29, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  17. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    DeMint is making this country less safe. Have a nice day!

    December 29, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. good

    "I won't let you appoint anyone AND I'll complain that you don't have anyone in charge."

    What a useless jerk.

    December 29, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  19. big papa

    Jim DeMint wants a military coup in America...

    ...he even visited Honduras– against our government's wishes and precedence– to support the coup there...

    ...the media hasn't said much about it because they are protecting their right wing traitors like Demint, Joe Wilson, Dick Cheney and Michelle Bachman et al...

    ...The truth will surely set us all free...

    December 29, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. Jimbo

    This Senator sounds completely crazy. First, neither the TSA nor the US Senate control the Amsterdam airport; second, what possible impact could a union have on this?

    December 29, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. charlie in Maine

    I love the constitution. The very things that saved our country when Bush was in charge (like holding up appointments of right wing nut-jobs) are now working against progress. But here is the lasting beauty of our system. What I want for our country some-one else might consider as big a mistake as Alberto Gonzoles or Hartiet Myers on the supreme court.

    And so ,without firing a shot, we will settle this in the election booth next year. Here's to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin for making our arguments fit and to to George Washinton for becoming the first national leader to retire without threat.

    December 29, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  22. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    What a schmuck! Move on past you stinking ideals and get this country moving.

    December 29, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  23. Keeth in California

    DeMint is the one jeopardizing Americans, not Obama and not unions.

    December 29, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  24. Ben in Texas

    Slider, I think you'll find that workers were organizing and striking in this country long before Marx. The New York Journeyman Printers organized and obtained wage increases in 1778, for example. Unions go back to the middle ages in the form of guilds. Your post is simply a wing nut's attempt to tar Obama with communism, and it fails miserably.

    You have unions to thank for any protections you have against the oppression of corporations and the bloody rich, whether you choose to recognize that or not. If you have a job with benefits like holidays, vacations, and health insurance, thank the unions for it. These things didn't exist before unions fought for them.

    December 29, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. Don F.

    Sorry, did I miss something here.

    What evidence is DeMint pointing to that union organization of the TSA contributed to the past "Detroit" security incident???

    Just what is it that the R's are smokeing these days???

    Lets get away from phantom issues and work to solve real issues. Lets get REAL NOW before all this phoney crap puts us as a nation at risk!

    December 29, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
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