Union Blocks Action Against Dangerous Bus Drivers at DC Metro; Obama Expands Union Power at Expense of Airline and Rail Security

Thanks to their union, bus drivers for Washington’s Metro system can be dangerously incompetent and still draw a government paycheck, avoiding discipline for repeated accidents.   (Metro employees sometimes make more than $100,000 per year).

Yet the Obama administration wants airline security and Amtrak to become more like Washington’s inefficient Metro, by increasing the power of unions and making it harder to get rid of problem employees.

As Radley Balko notes at Reason magazine’s Web site,

“Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Area Transit Authority fired Metro bus driver Carla A. Proctor this week after Proctor struck a jogger earlier this month. The jogger was just released from intensive care at a local hospital.

It’s good to know nearly killing someone was—finally—enough to get Proctor out from behind the wheel of a public bus. Her record to that point:

• Proctor had five off-the-job traffic tickets in January alone, including driving an unregistered, unlicensed vehicle.

• In 2003, Proctor got off a bus she had been driving to check a sticky door without first assuring the bus was parked. The bus rolled down a hill without her, damaging eight vehicles, including the bus. Metro paid out $27,000 in damages.

• Also in 2003, Proctor turned into oncoming traffic, at which point her car was struck by another vehicle. Proctor’s car went flying into a fast food restaurant, injuring two women.

• In 2004, Proctor crashed another Metro bus, this time into a parked vehicle, injuring a 72-year-old pasenger.

Given the impressive record of the Metro workers union in helping scofflaws avoid discipline, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Proctor back on the job.”

Rather than try to improve or privatize metro, officials in the D.C. government have tried to restrict the growth of competing private buses.

A left-wing union is about to unionize the Transportation Security Administration, which is in charge of airline security. Thanks to the Obama administration, the union will now be able to demand job rules that make it harder to get rid of lazy, incompetent, and careless employees.

The Washington Times reports that the unions want to get rid of basic skills tests for employees, and to destroy records of poor job performance.  The unions have “urged TSA Acting Administrator Gale D. Rossides to suspend use of the agency’s skills test for screeners. Failure rates this year reached more than 50 percent and were as high as 80 percent at some airports. The skills test shows that large numbers of airport screeners are failing at jobs that are intrinsic to keeping our airports and commercial airplanes secure, and the union’s response is to get rid of the test. The government employees union is also pushing to have failed screeners’ records cleared because pay and bonuses are tied to performance and unsatisfactory employee records prevent those who were fired for poor performance from being reinstated. So much for worker accountability.”

In the aftermath of 9/11, a foolish Congress shifted airline security screening to the inept Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which fails to detect explosive ingredients and fake bombs, in performance tests.   Now, the Obama administration is making matters even worse by undermining both airline security and railroad safety.

A study found that the TSA is more than twice as likely to fail to detect a bomb as the private security firms it replaced. And TSA’s failure rate is three or four times as high as the few remaining private firms still allowed to handle airline security.

In tests, TSA failed to detect fake bombs 60 percent of the time at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, and 75 percent of the time in Los Angeles. Yet the Obama administration plans to make TSA even more bureaucratic by introducing collective bargaining, which will make it even harder to get rid of lazy employees and demand high performance.

Rather than having the federal government take over airline security screening, the Feds should have stepped up policing and monitoring of the private companies that performed it, to weed out bad companies and promote the best.

Bush initially objected to congressional demands for a federal takeover, but then knuckled under for political reasons.  Ironically, even in European countries governed by socialist parties, airline security and screening is generally in the hands of private companies, because private companies are usually more diligent and innovative and less bureaucratic and inefficient.

The Obama administration is also undermining the security of railroad passengers by gutting an expert, highly-rated, anti-terror agency at Amtrak, which Amtrak’s unions hate, despite its efficiency, because it is not unionized.  Political cronyism is also playing a role in the gutting of Amtrak’s Office of Security Strategy and Special Operations (OSSSO).  Ultimately, OSSSO’s “highly-specialized officers” will likely be replaced by unionized employees with “alarmingly low pass rates” in “basic” classes.