Politics

TSA Workers Want to Arrest You

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those pleated khakis are your real crime, sir.

You know what sucks? Not being able to arrest people who piss you off when you're on the job. Who wouldn't want to have the power to slap cuffs on the grumpy people they deal with at work? But no. When I want someone arrested, I have to call the cops and wait around until they show up to do the arresting for me. Lame.

The employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) feel the same way. In an article for In These Times, writer Mike Elk (who was fired from the Huffington Post last year for letting union organizers borrow his press credential in order to disrupt a conference of mortgage bankers) describes the work of the nation's 44,000 TSA screeners as one of "the most dangerous jobs in America," citing the 30 (30!) guns a week they pluck from the nation's baggage.

Worse, sometimes people get shouty or even—very occasionally—cross the line into assault when TSA workers are just doing their jobs. When that happens, "the passengers were allowed to board flights because TSA screeners are unable to arrest passengers who assault them." All because of the finicky detail that "TSA cannot legally arrest or detain power under powers granted to it by the federal government," and must instead "call local police situated in the airport." So inconvenient.

Elk's complaint is situated in the middle of a larger argument about the need for collective bargaining to improve the "often brutal working conditions" of TSA employees—which seem to consist of some male-female pay disparities, low pay overall, and low morale—but it's not clear that arresting unruly passengers who are not otherwise a threat to national security is the sort of thing that would be on the table, should robust collective bargaining rights be granted.

Anyway, it's the media's fault. If "those conditions had received as much media attention as the search procedures they are charged with implementing, it's possible America's newly unionized airport screeners might have had a first contract by now. Instead, negotiations with the federal government continue."

Speaking of which: Check out our January issue about those search procedures the TSA employees are charged with implementing!