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In the wake of last week's riot at the U.S. Capitol, the leaders of two major unions representing railroad workers have asked the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address what the unions describe as security vulnerabilities for Amtrak workers and riders in and around Washington, D.C.
The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers–Transportation Division (SMART TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) are asking the FRA and DHS to take immediate executive action to tighten security and enhance punishments, and to increase personnel to a level that brings passenger-rail security more in line with aviation security overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The union leaders raised their concerns in a Jan. 11 letter to the federal agencies, according to a press release issued by the unions.
"We are demanding that significant changes to passenger-rail protocol be granted immediately to protect against the imminent threat of danger that exists today," said Presidents Jeremy Ferguson of SMART-TD and Dennis Pierce of the BLET. "It is our recommendation, as a minimal standard, that any regulation granted to prohibit the interference of a train crew's duty be in line with that of aviation statutes and regulations."
The union leaders raised their security concerns as the U.S. Capitol gears up for next week's inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Some of the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol last week are now on the FAA's "No Fly" list, which prevents them from traveling by air. However, no such restrictions exist for the national passenger-rail network, Ferguson and Pierce said. They asked that a "no ride" list that mirrors the FAA's list be enacted immediately.
Moreover, they called for additional law enforcement presence in the form of Amtrak police, U.S. Marshals or Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers to protect Amtrak riders and workers on trains.
"We stand ready to assist FRA, TSA and Homeland Security to help ensure the safety of our members and the traveling public," Pierce said.