TSA Screeners Disciplined for Not Doing Their Jobs, But Since Their Jobs Don’t Affect Security, Nothing Was Harmed

5 TSA workers were fired and 38 suspended for failing to perform random screenings last year at the Ft. Myers airport.

The 43, a combination of front-line screeners and supervisors, represent about 15 percent of the roughly 280 TSA employees at the airport.

.. “It’s the random secondary [check] that did not happen,” he said. “At no time was a traveler’s safety at risk and there was no impact on flight operations.”

Rather boggles the mind.

  1. A few bad apples who in no way undermine the hard work that thousands of men and women at the TSA do to keep us safe, day in and day out.
  2. It takes a lot to reach the disciplinary stage, and that happened with 15% of the workforce at this airport. In how many other cases did they simply lack sufficient evidence?
  3. And TSA employees were allowed to unionize, and the union is being granted greater bargaining rights.
  4. How long did it take to investigate, while it was suspected that 15% of the employees weren’t performing their screening duties?
  5. If the TSA concedes that safety was never at risk, then they concede the procedures themselves are not necessary for safety. Why are we engaged in security theatre?
  6. Why wasn’t I flying through Ft. Myers more often?!

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Your point #5 is what came to mind when I read the report; if security was not compromised without a step being performed, why have that step as the SOP?

    Also, I thought we did not have a head of TSA for quite some time since all nominated candidates coming before the legislators for confirmation hearings were leaning towards letting the TSA workers unionize. When did the legislators loosen up on that?

  2. Hi Gary. When I flew out of Seatac a few months ago, there was nothing random in the screening. The TSA employee directed every traveler in the first class priority line to the separate room with the body scanners. EVERY person. When the TSA agent left his spot at the front of the Priority line to yell at other passengers, our line didn’t know where to go and folks started moving toward the “take your shoes off” and walk through the metal detector area.

    “Our” TSA employee came rushing back, yelling at those in our line to keep going into the body scanner room. I was so incensed about the non-random nature of his actions and about his unprofessional behavior in yelling at passengers, that I submitted an online complaint to the TSA.

    By the way, I always opt out of the body scanner (sad to say that it seems the body scanner is in great use at Seatac) and in that specific circumstance, because they wasted so much time (my belief is that they intentionally wasted time so that I would change my mind) in getting a woman to pat me down, that I gave in just to get to my flight. It’s always interesting when I politely decline the body scan, it’s like all life stops at the scanners – “OPT OUT” is the very loud verbal announcement, everyone looks, lines stop, I’m told to wait (and wait and wait)…there has GOT to be a better way. On the positive side, the women TSA agents who have done the searches after I’ve opted out have been professional, quick, and non-invasive.

    As a traveler with Global Entry whose next flight is on Alaska, fingers crossed I’ll be approved for the new “pre-check” program that Alaska will be participating in. However…some errant TSA agent could still direct us all to the fateful and apparent TSA-favorite body scanner room!

  3. Interestingly, I have had great experiences at SEA, especially in the priority security lane (use the N satellite lane near United). For a long time it didn’t even have a body scanner, and these days it’s usually turned off.

    That said, at other airports where they try to direct everyone to the scanner, it amuses me when I opt out. Then my fiancee behind me opts out. Then if someone else behind her opts out, the fit really hits the shan. Soon there are three or four passengers milling around, waiting for an employee to come give us our pat downs, blocking the line. One person opting out doesn’t cause problems. It’s when there are multiple people that you can really create a mini protest against the security theater.

  4. @Scottrick…interesting. Usually I’m the only one opting out and the people behind me rarely opt out. It would be really easy to overload the system if everyone just decided to opt out one fine day. But the fact that most Americans don’t do so just goes to show how few of them actually care about civil liberties.

  5. Gary – I read your site everyday and I find it invaluable. I am confused about your intent behind point #3. Are you suggesting that their unionizing decreases our safety?

  6. I’m not convinced about the “random” checks. Our airport is sometimes using the body scanners and other times not. On one of my trips, I was standing in line and they were only using the metal detectors. Then, a Rutgers womens’ team (volleyball? soccer?) filed into the line behind me and suddenly the male TSA supervisor decided it was a good time to start using the body scanner on everyone. I couldn’t believe it, because it seemed so blatantly obvious. I didn’t hear any of the women complain, but since I went through the scanner before them, I proceeded to my flight.

  7. @AJT I’m suggesting that increased collective bargaining rights make the process of dsmissal even longer and less likely. I do not think that has anything whatsoever to do with safety, since they’re mostly engaged in security theatre in any case.

  8. Not a big fan of unions, I take it?

    In any case, they weren’t ‘allowed’ collective bargaining rights. Freedom of association is in the Constitution, and is the assumed default position. It is, rather, the case that they were not explicitly denied collective bargaining rights.

    Don’t worry, though. In another ten to fifteen years, government unions will be illegal. And if you think government service is bad today, with government workers only getting an average of 20% less pay (but sometimes somewhat better benefits) than their private-sector counterparts, wait until you see what happens when they’re paid 50% less with no benefits at all.

    We’re rapidly achieving the government we so richly deserve.

  9. @Fred Fnord – my argument here wasn’t about unions per se. It was about agreeing to a structure that will make removing problem employees even more difficult in the future. Surely if it’s already really tough to get rid of employees who aren’t doing their jobs, ostensibly employees failing to perform a security function, you’d agree that unionizing those employees would be a bad idea?

  10. @Gary: As I said, ‘allowing’ union representation is the default position. If you want to deny it, you have to prove a compelling social interest in denying people their collective bargaining rights. ‘It will make it harder to fire people who deserve it, as well as people who don’t deserve it,’ is not really a compelling public interest.

    As for unions making it harder to fire people, that’s certainly true, and can lead to some unfortunate situations. A lot of people think that it is worth it, because it also cuts down on retaliatory firings (documented and successfully litigated against in the TSA), employment discrimination (documented and successfully litigated against in the TSA), preferential treatment (documented in the TSA), nepotism (probably documented in the TSA somewhere but a cursory examination failed to turn any news stories up), and so on and so forth. Indeed, this sort of thing is WHY unions make it hard to fire people.

    I guess it boils down to the age-old question: would you prefer to err on the side of punishing the guilty, even if some of the innocent get punished too? Or would you prefer to err on the side of keeping the innocent from being punished, even if it means some of the guilty don’t ‘get what’s coming to them’? You can’t choose some mythological happy medium, where the good employees don’t get screwed but the bad ones do. This doesn’t exist in big corporations or government. You only have one slider, and the choices are, all the way to the right, ‘bad apples are fired as soon as they are identified, along with people mangers don’t like, people who are an inconvenient shade of brown, people who are Republicans/Democrats/Tea Party/OWS, people who participate in peace marches, people who pee too frequently, people who actually use their vacation time, people who refuse to sleep with their bosses, people who refuse to stay for two hours after they’ve clocked out to ‘help catch up’, …’ and so forth, or, all the way on the left, ‘It’s fucking impossible to ever fire anyone’, or somewhere between the two. But any setting to the left of the former one is going to mean that it’s harder to fire people who suck, and any setting to the right of the latter is going to mean that some discrimination, favoritism, and screwing-over is going to creep in.

    I might note that, given the fact that it is estimated that fewer than ten percent of illegal employer practices cases ever go to trial, and fewer than three percent (this I just got from an HR Law person who briefed us a couple weeks back) of them are actually won by the employee, the fact that the TSA is being successfully sued by as many (former) employees as they are indicates to me that their employees are being right royally fucked right now. So perhaps one can see why ‘allowing’ them a union might be reasonable. If one is disposed to think of unions as actually providing any protection for their members, that is.

  11. So much money spent and US airport security is still a sad joke. Learn from the Israelis in this issue. Profiling is logical, moral and – save lives and money.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *