November 1, 2001

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if McDonalds and airport security service companies got into a bidding war for employees? At the current rate we don't have to worry about that as the fast food stores located in most airport terminals actually pay more than some airlines do for baggage checkers and other key security personnel. Now with the economic crush created by the events of September 11, that issue looks even more glum unless the government takes action.

And that is exactly what big brother is poised to do, as legislation is nearing final approval to provide some federal control of the entire airport safety process. However this issue appears to be causing the first rift in our national leaders since the terrorist attacks nearly two months ago. The political fight that is brewing has nothing to do with national security, saving the airlines or anything that important. Instead we have Democrats and Republicans bickering over whether the entire airport security force must be federally employed. The Republicans are arguing for a federally controlled and supervised system that will hire employees from the public workforce. Democrats on the other hand are holding out for a 100% federal workforce, which ultimately would mean a labor union and all the other ramifications of the governmental workforce.

It's odd that our nation's first public dispute would center around labor unions. The flags are waving, patriotism is at an all time high and our government is arguing about whether or not airport safety personnel should have a union or not. There is no doubt that we need to improve airport security, the only question is whether this improved safety force should have the right to collective bargaining. I'm all in favor of individuals being paid a fair wage for a good day's work. However I can not honestly say that I am in favor of tenure and other forms of worker protection that ultimately only promote lower job performance and provide absolutely no incentive to do a good job. It's a shame when you can't even fire an employee who no longer is doing their job well enough to meet the lowest standards. I definitely would like to see the highest quality workers checking baggage and making other security checks on my next flight.

While our government is debating the labor issue on airline security, another hot topic received no argument as the government pressured Bayer into lowering the price on Ciprofloxacin, the drug of choice to fight anthrax. Our nice old government threatened the German-based drug manufacturer that if it did not lower the price of the drug below $1.00 per unit, steps would be taken to remove the company's patent rights. That would allow the drug to be manufactured in the U.S under generic, and thus much less expensive, labels. The threat apparently worked. It must be nice to have the power to change the rules of the game in extraordinary situations like this. I'm sure this governmental intervention still left a reasonable profit margin for Bayer, considering the massive increase in demand. It did make me wonder if our nation's leader may not have applied similar pressure behind the scenes in certain other areas, specifically in gasoline, as fuel prices remain surprisingly low. Maybe the price gouging investigations immediately following the September 11 event scared a few of the suppliers?

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