December 29th, 2009
12:18 PM ET
9 years ago

DeMint defends blocking appointment of TSA chief

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Joe, Georgia

    Jim DeMint is a danger to this nation. When will voters figure out that this man does nothing in the US Senate but play political games for idealogical purposes. He places the Country at risk for his politcal gain.

    December 29, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. Kent in MN

    Yeah, here is a good Idea. Lets keep the people who are the first line of defense for terrorism from having good benefits. That way they will be unhappy and do their jobs so well. Oh doesn't work that way.

    December 29, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. montag

    Evidently, Senator DeMint fears unions more than he fears terrorists. Disgusting right-wing nutcase! I think I will now refer to the senator as Senator DeMented.

    December 29, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. Bev

    Demint is right!!!

    TSA employees should NOT be able to join a union!!!

    What is going to happen when the "union" employees decide to go on strike???

    This will place innocent travelers at increased risk.

    If air travel is stopped because of a strike-–this will destroy the airline industry!!!

    Again, Demint is 100% right on with stopping this confirmation!!!!

    December 29, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. Matt

    Unionize TSA? Give me abreak. Why don;t we let the military form unions as well. we can one for each branch of service. I can see it now – an Army unit calls for air cupport, and the Air Force is on strike for better benefits.

    No TSA Should NOT be allowed to will weaken our airline security......

    As for all the Obamabots on here -- take a deep breath and take the blinders off.

    As far as our nation's security goes, I trust the GOP far greater than I would the Obamas pelosis and reids of this country - not even close.

    December 29, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |

    Oh gimme a break DeMint!!! Stop trying to insult our intelligence. This is what its about.. You and all the other REPUBLICONS just want the President to fail, no matter what the cost. Period... Period.

    December 29, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  7. Silence Dogoode

    Right Unions.........fall in step with the Socialist in the WH.....

    December 29, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  8. Doug

    Yet another disgusting excuse for a Senator who has been bought and paid for by the corporate interests.

    December 29, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. RTB

    Get rid of De Mint.

    Union affiliation and terrorism has nothing to do with each other. Either an anti-terrorism policy is followed or it isn't. This is a poor excuse De Mint is offering to promote his lame republican agenda.

    December 29, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  10. Bob in Pa

    Read the facts: BO and Janet Napolitano own this one.
    He waited 243 days to nominate someone for this office.

    He failed to get the former administrator to stay on until a
    replacement was found.

    The TSA is part of the Dept. of Homeland Security. In the absence
    of an administrator, Janet should have been overseeing the duties.

    This is all about security of our country. Mr. DeMint is correct, we do not need any Unions dictation of hiring and firing policies of the TSA. The TSA employees are all paid well and receive excellent benefits. Next BO will want to Unionize the Military.

    December 29, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |

    Senator DeMint, tear down this load of bull crap and allow the appointment of well-qualified Mr. Southers to take the helm at TSA. BTW, those ignorant posts claiming that TSA workers make minimum wage have no clue. Fact is the starting pay is about $30k per year.

    December 29, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    Unbelievable! He cripples the TSA and leaves them leaderless in a very crucial time so he can grind an ax with the Union? How is this not considered aiding and abetting terrorists?

    December 29, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. russell

    And this is one of the reasons the reublican party should be abolished , they have no concerns for the poor or middle class America let alone a person's right unionize, that's exactly what republicans stand for , in their eyes Americans should not have any right when it comes to employment . republicans = UNION BUSTING !

    December 29, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. jeff

    The U.S. Senate needs reform: to reduce the 60% supermajority to cut off debate and vote on a bill, and to eliminate the holds that Senators can place on a nominee. I hope enough Democrats are elected in
    2010 to make these important changes.

    December 29, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. Lori in St Pete

    President Obama needs to stand firm on this issue, and real Americans need to contact their elected officials in D.C. and let them know their displeasure with the thug tactics displayed by the rethugs. We need a strong union presence in all aspects of American employment. The beginning of the end of the middle class commenced with raygun's busting of the Air Traffic Controller Union in 1981. My husband was an air traffic controller. They were striking for several reasons, the main reason being the antiquity of the air traffic control system. They all ended up being fired, and 29 years later, the FAA is STILL using the same outdated equipment. Suffice it to say we don't fly.

    December 29, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. Holden Mirror

    What a shocker..... a Republican Senator holding up the business of our Congress and catering to big business.
    We as Americans need to make sure that we don't end up with more of these obstructionists in 2010. They have ground our government to a halt. Do you want to vote for someone whose only stated goal is to destroy a president?

    December 29, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. dave

    DeMint is a classic example of what is wrong with politicians in congress and the senate. Always putting politics ahead of the interests of the American people. They don't even answer to their constituents any longer. They just answer to their party. The reasoning spouted out of this guy's mouth is just sick. And to think he (and a lot of other people) believe this nonsense. Go figure.

    December 29, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. jj1234

    Unions were needed in the past but now there are laws for the rights of workers. They are not needed.

    December 29, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  19. shadtree

    This is one more example of Mr. Demint and other republicans trying to cause Obama's "waterloo" . The republicans are puting this country in very serious danger just to try to regain control in 2010 or later. It is a shame what they are doing to this country.

    December 29, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  20. Donna Stayman

    I applaud Sen. DeMint's decision to hold up the nomination of the TSA Chief. The last thing this incompetent agency needs is to be unionized. That will only make the security efforts less important. I love the liberal media's attempt to blame DeMint's efforts to block this federal unionization attempt as the excuse for the latest terrorist attempt on Americans. The blame is completely on this sorry excuse for a president & his liberal allies in equally sorry congress.

    December 29, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  21. MsDp

    Stupid is as stupid does; so Demint is STUPID!!!

    December 29, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  22. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    Ah yes! The old Reagan meme that unions are destroying this country gets trotted out once again. Funny, the dismantling of unions over the last 30 years has led to many of the economic problems y'all cite every day as examples of decline. Do any of you still have the intellectual capacity to objectively examine the motives behind statements to this effect by the wealthy elite? Sigh... Ike was right. Too bad no one listened. Money has a way of doing that. Just keep believing in your little illusions of a benign "free" market, social mobility and participatory democracy. Have a nice day!

    December 29, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  23. tony reed

    Why do CNN and other news organizations continue to give away airline security procedures and techniques on air. I'm sick of learning how and where to place explosive materials and compounds so that they will not be detected. It also does not make any difference that your experts preface their blabbering with "without giving too much away." Can you please stop giving away security weak points!!! My god.

    December 29, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  24. Labor Unions = Bad

    I agree, labor unions had their place decades ago. But now, we don't need the corrupt, job-killing entities.

    The world and economy has changed. Businesses have to be flexible in order to succeed. Labor unions are partially responsible for failures in the US auto industry (leading to the government takeover of GM), the high costs of government work (does a desk job at the DMV really need to be paid $75K with insane benefits?), plus SEIU and others are acting as thugs for the democratic party–paid protests, assault and intimidation...

    We don't need Obama's thugs ruining everything.

    December 29, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. Swampdweller

    I have had my life threatened by union leaders, so you can guess that I'm not a huge fan. Still, it's a pure smokescreen to obstruct the appointment of a well-qualified TSA administrator just because a union might ensue. Shame on Jim DeMint and his knee-jerk reactionary cronies for playing politics with our legitimate security needs.

    December 29, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
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