The TSA’s New Union Takes Sides in the War on Water

The TSA now has a union, and oddly though unionization is new for their workers the union’s slogan is:

“On Your Side From the Begining

The begining (sic) of what, exactly?

Still, I expect their website to be a useful source of knowledge. For instance, they’ve posted this memo (.pdf) from the TSA’s Assistant Administrator for Security Operations in the Office of Security Operations explains that each airport’s Federal Security Director (FSD) is authorized to use their government credit cards to buy bottled water for TSA employees. Yes, that’s right. The TSA won’t let you take water through the checkpoint, but the government will buy water for its TSA employees. Clearly, the TSA and travelers are on opposite sides in the War on Water.

The union wants to make sure that TSA employees get access to bottled water, even if we can’t. Perhaps passengers should ‘report issues’ with lack of access to water to the local Union President or AFGE at 866-392-6832?

(HT: scflier on Milepoint.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. There seems to be at least a few 2-liter bottles of soda at LGA checkpoint all the time at the TSA desk. But heck, we have a war against liquid!

  2. hey- I’m a federal employee and if we want water we have to buy it our own damn selves.

  3. What’s wrong with tap water. There has to be a break room somewhere with drinking water.

    Or perhaps it’s the special Fiji Water that they need and even Crystal Geyser isn’t good enough.

  4. TSA creating a union is good news it will cause the republicans to disband the TSA (hopefully). Also for most government workers they have to pay for their own water/coffee why should these clowns be any different?

  5. With the heat wave this summer, officers may be working in un air-conditioned baggage areas in over 100 degree heat for days in a row, while the passengers are enjoying the air conditioning upstairs. In many cases, officers can’t leave their posts to “get a drink from the fountain”, because if they did, passengers wouldn’t get screened.(Contrary to popular belief,there aren’t a lot of spare officers to step in). Passengers are welcome to fill empty containers from water fountains (after screening) so they don’t have to purchase drinks at the airport. It’s just basic employee care/safety in extreme heat.

  6. Really, you guys are picking on low-wage, unskilled, poorly educated people trying to make a better life for themselves and their family? Really? Act with class.

    Many of us who read this blog and other blogs have the good fortune to jet off to some of the most exotic and beautiful locations in the world. Some places that are so exotic many people who work for TSA have never heard of…not to mentioned our co-workers and bosses. So, you get snippy and act like a feckless thug because they take your water away…when you are off to stay in a OTWB in the Maldives. Grow up and pay $3.00 for your crappy bottled water or get it from the lounge. However, you want to begrudge these people for having bottle water at their work station…I will say it again…ACT WITH CLASS.

    Yet, instead of acting with class you want to kick TSA agents because they have a job to do. You want to harras them, because they have a job to do. SMH…this is pathetic.

  7. A TSA union? Great – now instead of firing the idiots that eventually get caught stealing from your baggage, their new contract will stipulate that they receive a slap on the wrist and two weeks off with pay.

    When they return to work, they’ll be moved to the checked baggage area where they won’t be as easily observed next time…

  8. @ Ybjfk:

    Aside from the issue you take with people “picking” on TSA agents, what about the actual justification for why we’re not allowed to take water through the checkpoint? Why is water purchased with a government-issued credit card any safer than the water you or I buy and try to take through the checkpoint?

    There doesn’t seem to be any stipulation on where this water ought be procured, making it just as potentially susceptible to use as a vector to transport materials and circumvent the security system. After all, many of the TSA agents are stationed “behind” the checkpoint (think x-ray operators, secondary screeners, etc).

    The problem here is the hypocrisy: if water bottles are too dangerous to allow any random Joe to buy and carry through, why is water purchased by the government for unionized TSA agents any safer? (Note–this also applies to all of the water you buy post-security that comes in on a rolling cart, but that’s a whole different conversation…)

  9. @Rich

    Vote, lobby, and donate money to get the stupid law changed…BUT DO NOT BEGRUDGE TSA agents.

    Instead of picking on your local member of the House and writing them to change the laws…we (well not me) make a habit of picking on the most defenseless member…the frontline TSA agent.

    Tell me this, when has Milepoint, Lucky, Gleff, or Flyertalk every organized a letter campaign directed at each member’s local House member? When has Gleff ever challenged any member of the House with any of his various media contacts about this…instead…people harass the frontline employee.

    Lucky, is actually quite proud that he refuses to go through an image scanner…but he has never taken the time to write his House member. He has never taken the time to write his state Senators. He has never taken the time to organize a campaign to rid the scanners…instead he makes some guy give him the “massage” who is busting his @$$ to make a living.

    Act with class and speak truth to power

  10. @Ybjfk I have directly irked the centers of power at DHS over TSA issues, not just ‘taken it out on front-line agents,’ in fact I have written in the past quite extensively about my theories of change in this area, what works and what doesn’t. So before presuming what I have or haven’t done and passing judgmnet, recognize that your knowledge in that area may be less than complete…

  11. @Gary

    Why don’t you flag one of those post for me where you have written your Congressmen and/or Congresswomen? You are an excellent writer and that letter that you sent either one of your state’s Senators would make an excellent example to follow…Or maybe the letter you sent to your local elected member of the House. All, I see is a 9 July 2011 post where you take a shot at…now I do not want to presume…frontline workers. How about your wonderful 20 November 2010 post on the subject. Maybe, your colorful expose on 18 November 2010. Perhaps, 12 November 2010 (November was a bad month for all of us)…29 October 2010, 6 July 2010 or that hard-hitting truth to power moment on 14 April2010, 29 December 2009…etc.

    Maybe, you direct me to the thread on Milepoint where you have organized a letter campaign for all of the members to participate in…I believe you are one of the founders of said site.

    As you are aware Dept HSA has to report to Congress…so lawmakers might be a more effective means of getting changed done. Yes, you posted your ideas about TSA…but have done nothing…except deride people who have crappy jobs. When all it takes is actually using some of your juice to make a difference for good instead pandering to the lowest element. You are better than this…so take my example and speak truth to power.

    Or am I just presuming once again?

  12. @Ybjfk I really don’t understand why you’re fixated on letter-writing. That strikes me as unlikely to be meaningful. You might get a form letter back. Instead in one of those psots (November 2010) that you seem to think is about bashing front-line workers, you seem to miss the point.

    Take for instance this one:

    Some snippets, much greater detail on my reasons in the post.

    “TSA gropers have no decision-making authority. Making their life difficult doesn’t get us anywhere. And at the checkpoint is probably the wrong place to assert yourself,”

    “my belief is that we need media scrutiny over how bad the status quo is. And we need something that a constituency will benefit from in order to push for change. And we need a plausible narrative to offer about how the replacement is even better for security.”

    It’s not enough that people object to the invasion of privacy. Because the folks charged with i”mplementing the policy need to save face. They can’t admit they were wrong or they lose credibility and capital. In order to back down they have to have a consistent way to do it while furthering their publicly stated objectives. So something ‘better’ for security can replace the current disaster, but the current disaster can’t simply be dismantled. Too many politicians, bureaucrats, and interests are wedded to it to simply yield without a major uprising or shift in power (in which case, the new powerbrokers can shut down a project that then embarasses their predecessors and punishes their backers — if indeed those backers were solely aligned to a single party).”

    “We need more media. We need an interest group to benefit from pushing for a new less-intrusive model. But shenanigans at the checkpoint — while making us at least feel as though we have some personal illusion of control over a situation where we otherwise have almost none — does little to affect change.”

    My comparative advantage isn’t the direct action component of all of this, but i certainly do my part. Hey, anyone remember my “Impeach Norm Mineta” bumper stickers?

  13. @Gary:

    First, let me say you, Lucky, the good people at Flyertalk and now Milepoint have allowed me to see the world in a way I never dreamed possible or even knew existed. I will always be in your gratitude and I do hold you in high esteem. I did read all of your TSA articles, and I have read them over the years.

    I just think that pandering to the crowd that says I hate the TSA is wasted energy. The letter writing campaign…calling the local office, requesting a meeting, etc. Are things that play…the TSA is hated equally by Dems and Pubs. It is an easy politician target. If you are fed up with this stuff, then do something constructive about it…not begrudge people who make low wages bottled water.

    You have enriched my life, by showing me traveling in style is affordable. I have never been jealous of you when you have flown first class, eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world (I still love the conk shell with the ipod in it that enhances the meal), and had what appears to be an amazing times with your lovely wife all around the world.

    I just find it beneath you, and Lucky, to go after front-line TSA employees. It, in my opinion, helps create a hostile environment against these people. That is not what travel is about…and I thought you understood that from that November post, but look at what you have posted about TSA, front-line employees since then…I am asking you to be better…that is all.

  14. @Ybjfk I really think you miss the point of this post. It is NOT any against the TSA folks. On the contrary. They favor water. So do I. This was a criticism of the liquid ban, of TSA management, not of frontline employees.

    I also laid out an explicit theory of social change, quoted from a previous post. I don’t view letter writing as especially effective, or as my comparative advantage.

    But I also think that declaring the waste and futility of the TSA, and calling out the erosions of liberty that this country has been accepting, will never be beneath me.


  15. Gary, I think it is a huge stretch to refashion your post as “a criticism of the liquid ban.” Yes, the post mentions the liquid ban in passing. But the primary subject of the post has nothing to do with the liquid ban. Nor does the linked memorandum. And where does the memo say that TSA employees can bring bottled water through security? (I assume that they can, but that doesn’t get me too worked up.)

    I guess I don’t get the point of this post. It vacillates between an attack on unions, an attack on poor spelling, an attack on government spending, and an attack on lack of access to proper hydration.

    On the last topic, I have never suffered a “lack of access to water” at an airport. There are plenty of vendors post-security that are happy to sell bottles of water to you, me, or even the TSA.

  16. Oh lord more union bashing and political nonesense from this blog, pls stick with your analysis of the travel industry marketing/scams. thanks!

  17. @pretty TSA is very relevant to the travel experience, if you disagree with something I write feel free to share your reasons why in the comments. Thanks!

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