Tell me that Tiger Woods, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Charlie Sheen are getting together to open up a marriage-counseling firm. But don’t tell me that Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is holding up Senate confirmation of the boss of the Transportation Security Administration because DeMint wants assurances that the employees of that agency — responsible for making sure Americans are able to travel safely by air and rail — will never be able to join a labor union.
Forget that the nominee, Erroll Southers — former city police detective, former FBI special agent in counterterrorism and foreign counterintelligence, and the former state of California official (appointed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger) responsible for oversight of counterterrorism policy — is obviously qualified for the post.
Ignore that the TSA, most especially obvious after the Christmas Day terrorism attack near Detroit on a Northwest Airlines flight, needs a full-time chief. DeMint is committed to keeping America safe from union members!
DeMint argues that if employees were granted the right to bargain collectively that would mean that, according to The Washington Post, union leaders would have the power “to veto or delay future security improvements at our airports.”
What kind of anti-worker disinformation is this man pushing? DeMint, a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a master’s degree in business administration from Clemson University, was born Sept. 2, 1951, which means he was 50 years old on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. Has DeMint forgotten, or did he just never know, that on that fateful day 343 New York City firefighters — to search for and, if possible, save the trapped and the terrified — marched into the jaws of death and into the fires of hell?
Every one of those New York firefighters was a dues-paying union member of the International Association of Firefighters. But first they were public servants.
Did DeMint ever know or has he already forgotten the crew of US Airways Flight 1549 — Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, First Officer Jeffrey Skiles and flight attendants Doreen Walsh, Sheila Dail and Donna Dent? Does he not remember the unbelievably cool and exceptionally courageous leadership that saved the lives of all 155 on board while “landing” their Airbus 320 on New York’s Hudson River?
Every one of the US Airways crew, let it be noted, was a dues-paying union member, as was Patrick Harten, the 10-year veteran air traffic controller, whose own composed professionalism under unimaginable pressure made the “landing” and the rescue possible.
The passengers of Flight 1549 were rescued from the frigid waters by the ferries and fireboats whose crews belong to the Seafarers Union, the Firefighters Union and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
Surely DeMint has not already forgotten Nov. 5, 2009, and the horrific carnage caused by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood in which 13 were killed and at least 28 wounded, and which ended only after a 5-foot bundle of courage, 34-year-old Kimberley Munley — a civilian Defense Department police officer and the mother of a 3-year-old daughter — boldly engaged the shooter, fired four times and was herself shot by him in her legs and the arm.
What DeMint apparently doesn’t know is that Munley, just like every one of those 343 New York City firefighters, was both a dedicated and unselfish public servant and a proud, dues-paying member of a labor union.
So, Mr. DeMint, let’s can the hogwash and the horse feathers about public employees and their alleged “labor bosses,” and let us instead honor the words of John F. Kennedy to “let the public service be a proud and lively career.”
— Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him.