TSA and the Shutdown



Hey! First post as a member here. During the reading group meeting there was a discussion about the TSA union and the effect of the government shutdown on its workers. As you may know, employees of the TSA recently got their first “paycheck” of $0.00. There are some protests happening by union members, and the TSA union officers are publicly expressing concerns. Some workers are continually calling in “sick” because they aren’t being paid.

I wanted to start a discussion on this, mainly in regard to how we (MADSA) can most effectively show solidarity with these workers and other government employees affected by the shutdown. I also want to pick your brains on why they don’t strike! Do you think it’s fear of completely losing their positions? Would they be more likely to strike en masse if the community around them was ready to help them keep their lights on and food on the table? Someone in these forums knows more than I do about government employee unions and specifically the TSA, so I would love to hear from you. I’ll also be reaching out to Atlanta Jobs with Justice on this topic.

Thanks for reading and responding!


We were talking about this yesterday. This puts us in a bit of a bind I think. Yes they’re workers and deserve respect, but they’re also an agency designed to harass people of color. Where do we try to land on this?


Yeah. I’ve definitely been profiled by them before, so I feel the bind and wouldn’t want to endorse an agency that performs the tasks of marginalization.

It might be useful to think about other agencies, particularly ones we’d want to abolish, and how we’d expect to handle those discharged workers. Of course, that kind of job creation requires government support that we couldn’t expect to have in the case of the TSA. Perhaps if an organization took a public stance that was conditional? Generally speaking, “if you stop performing this work, we can help you.” I hope that makes sense.


Fed here, although centers for disease control so we are funded and not shut down. I was furloughed in the 2013 shutdown.

I think between the increased labor militancy for teachers and the Trump administration the current dynamic is very different.

Some background is that federal employees are not allowed to strike. When flight controllers were the last federal strikers, Reagan broke the strike and banned them from federal employment for life. Clinton reversed that about 12 years later and allowed them
to have federal jobs. So they might still strike or do strike-like activities (sickouts) but it’s a huge step.


In my neighborhood, the local online bulletin board has been flooded with material about helping the government workers, not differentiating among them.

I think we should support the government workers no matter what agency they work for, including those in TSA many of whom make shit wages (starting at $10.50/hr). This includes materially as well as through protests, both because they need the help during Trump’s lockout and it will get a more sympathetic hearing for our ideas.

As for TSA, I don’t think it is true that it is an agency primarily designed to harass people of color. It certainly does that, but its main role is communicative, in fact, theatrical.

It enforces an internal passport regime and subjects everyone to intrusive searches while providing data for the political police, and getting people used to accepting that we live in a police state permanently at war without any discernible purpose or objective against an enemy --“terror”-- that can’t be beat because it doesn’t exist.

In this sense we have outstripped the manual that was used after September 11, because Oceania had to constantly switch from fighting Eastasia to fighting Eurasia in George Orwell’s 1984.

The “security” mission is just theater.

Viewed on its own terms, it is a bad joke, with failure to detect weapons and other prohibited items in anywhere from 70% to 95% of instances in tests carried out by Homeland Security.

The case of the woman last week who simply forgot she had a loaded weapon in her carry-on luggage and made it through screening in Atlanta and all the way to Japan gives you an even better idea of how effective the whole thing is, because there wasn’t even any attempt to camouflage the item.

So I think we should differentiate clearly between TSA and the cops, who are mercenaries in the employ of the enemy to maintain social control through repression.