I want to talk about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workforce because like you, I pay their salary and they need to be accountable. I want to be safe. I am a patriotic American. I am a citizen of the planet and I want world peace. Airfare is expensive and I do not want an underwear bomber sitting next to me in flight. I hope that they get this junk inspection debacle figured out before I head south of the border in February. The last thing I need is to have my enchilada handled inappropriately.

Taking the ever increasing sensationalist media with a grain of salt and people overly sensitive about their parts being scanned into account, all weekend I have been hearing concerning stories of travelers who just want to get where they need to go, reporting "incidents" during their terrorist screenings. You can read about the unfortunate travelers with compromised ostomies and prosthetic devices all over the Internet, no sense in me being gossipy here. Plus, this isn't a travel blog...

The TSA, under the Department of Homeland Security, paid out $98 million in bonuses and pay raises in 2008 as part of their pay for performance system. That's quite robust, I didn't think the government was giving bonuses and raises in the middle of the recession (this makes me wonder what the parameters for bonusing a junk inspection are).

That 's the equivalent of about 6,500 full-time minimum wage jobs for a year. It's a job for every resident of Pikeville, one of the most progressive cities in Eastern Kentucky, the region's leader in healthcare, education, banking, and entertainment, with over 1,400 businesses. It has over 10% unemployment like just about the rest of the country.

I'll bet the local economic development agency would have appreciated some of that TSA bonus money to help stimulate job growth. In fact, what if you took the 98 largest metros in the US and gave them a cool million each for job creation? What would the impact be?

At my local community college that would be 16,333 Associate degrees. That would pull my community out of long standing sub par educational attainment and yank us into the big leagues. Junk inspection, job creation and education... Yeah, I dream a lot. I know all too well this money comes from the "bonus fund" at the Department of Homeland Security - not the "Job Creation Fund" at the Department of Labor or Department of Education.

You can read other TSA fun facts like how a whopping 82% of employees like the work that they do at the TSA in their promo piece Myth vs. Fact on the TSA Workforce. That's not really a great score by the way, but could you imagine standing all day inspecting people? I kinda get it.

Wait... Why does an organization need a page on their website dedicated to myths about their workforce? Probably because of the stories we hear in the news. I did some digging...

The starting rate for a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) is $29,131.00 /year. That means they start at about $14 an hour. PayScale.com lists the average Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) salary at $9.27 - 12.16 per hour - and they are trained to touch your junk compassionately, not dislodge your ostomy bag or dislocate your prosthesis AND they are sensitive to the special needs of those whom they come in contact with AND they understand privacy and discretion.. Clearly, they are underpaid.

A little additional security training and I think you would have a better fit. Unfortunately, we need all the CNA's right where they are and don't even have enough of them because of our aging population and increase in healthcare needs.

Back to the TSA.. A Transportation Safety Officer (TSO), aka Junk Inspector, job description is universal. Here is one listed for Evansville, IN. - employment rate also over 10%, population 116,309.

You will perform a variety of duties related to providing security and protection of air travelers, airports and aircraft. As a TSO, you may be required to perform passenger screening, baggage screening or both. You are expected to perform all of these duties in a courteous and professional manner. The principal duties and responsibilities include the following:

  • Perform security screening:
    • Of persons, including tasks such as: hand-wanding (which includes the requirement to reach and wand the individual from the floor to over head), pat-down searches, and monitoring walk-through metal detector screening equipment
    • Of property, including the operation of x-ray machines to identify dangerous objects in baggage, cargo and on passengers; and preventing those objects from being transported onto aircraft
  • Control entry and exit points
  • Continuously improve security screening processes and personal performance through training and development

TSOs MUST be willing and able to:

  • Repeatedly lift and carry up to 70 pounds;
  • Continuously stand between one to four hours without a break to carry out screening functions;
  • Walk up to two miles during a shift;
  • Communicate with the public, giving directions and responding to inquiries in a professional and courteous manner;
  • Maintain focus and awareness and work within a stressful environment which includes noise from alarms, machinery, and people, distractions, time pressure, disruptive and angry passengers, and the requirement to identify and locate potentially life threatening devices and devices intended on creating massive destruction; and,
  • Make effective decisions in both crisis and routine situations.

Did you just catch that? For $14 per hour you should fill the requirement to identify and locate potentially life threatening devices and devices intended on creating massive destruction.

All that plus you must meet vision, auditory and joint mobility requirements and your blood pressure cannot exceed 140/90 (serious). Of course, you must also pass a pre-employment drug screening test and a background investigation, including a criminal check and a credit check. You'll be disqualified if you defaulted on $7,500 or more in debt (excluding certain circumstances of bankruptcy), owe any delinquent Federal or State taxes or owe any past due child support payments. You have to be willing to work any shift, any day of the week.

The training to identify and locate potentially life threatening devices and devices intended on creating massive destruction is about one and a half weeks in the classroom and approximately three weeks OJT. That includes not only security training but customer service, policies and procedures, all that good stuff.

Look, I know people take these jobs because they need jobs. No one dreams of being a body screener (simmer down all you with over active imaginations). You have to be able to lift luggage all day, stand up to 4 hours with out a break, walk up to 2 miles a shift, be professional and courteous, work wacky hours - and I repeat.... Identify and locate potentially life threatening devices and devices intended on creating massive destruction - all for $14. an hour.

Are you starting to get the picture?


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