It was wrong for baggage screeners at our nation's airports to be made federal employees, and there is no reason for those screeners now to gain collective-bargaining rights.
Better security was the excuse for making screeners federal workers -- at great taxpayer expense -- after the 9/11 attacks. But it was never clear how taking virtually the same pool of workers and putting them on the U.S. payroll would improve their skills.
Sadly, multiple tests show the federalization of the workers did not boost security. Privately employed screeners outperformed federal screeners in 2005. And in tests in 2007, banned materials were three to four times more likely to get through federal screeners in Los Angeles and Chicago than through privately employed screeners in San Francisco.
More recently, disaster was only narrowly averted when a man on a U.S.-bound flight on Christmas Day tried but failed to blow up explosives he had brought on board.
But now, with our security protocols already apparently ineffective, the Obama administration is likely to extend collective-bargaining rights to 40,000 federal baggage screeners. That's a bad idea, because the Transportation Security Administration needs flexibility to hire and fire workers rapidly in response to employee qualifications and terrorist threats. Drawn-out labor disputes and hearings will make that flexibility impossible. And as public servants, government employees should not be unionized anyway.
But the administration wants to keep union campaign donors happy, and union leaders expect that once the president names a new Transportation Security Administration head, that person will give screeners collective-bargaining rights.
That unfortunately puts Big Labor politics ahead of national security.