Immediately after the horrific 9/11 attacks on our country, policy makers moved quickly to impose broad background checks, including reviews of past criminal records, on a wide range of frontline transportation workers. While TTD understood that controlling access to key transportation assets was needed to help guard against future attacks, we rejected the notion that all transportation workers represented a security risk unless proved otherwise and that unlimited background checks with no protections had to be the norm. TTD insisted that so-called disqualifying criminal offenses be limited to those that reasonably made someone a security risk, that all workers had the ability to appeal incorrect information or seek a waiver from an adverse decision, and that privacy rules be imposed on the collection of employee records.
TTD unions first secured many of these protections in the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) as Congress created the TWIC card for longshore and maritime workers. TTD then engaged the Bush Administration’s Transportation Security Administration to ensure that these new protections were implement in the best way possible. In addition, TTD fought for and won the extension of these rights to truck drivers subject to mandatory background checks pursuant to a separate statute. TTD also secured modified protections for transit and rail workers even though these checks are not mandated by the federal government and instead conducted by private employers. At the same time, TTD defended its agenda from the likes of the Wall Street Journal editorial board and fought repeal efforts mounted by Senator Jim DeMint (now president of Heritage Action).
More work remains. Aviation workers, subject to background checks imposed weeks after 9/11, still do not have the right to seek a waiver from TSA showing they are not a security risk. Criminal records, including those collected by the FBI, are notoriously inaccurate and workers must spend too much time and money correcting information simply to save their jobs. And we know that new and expanded checks are likely and that current programs are in need of reforms. TTD will continue to engage in this fight. We will utilize lessons learned from one mode of transportation to help workers in others, and bring substantive arguments and expertise to what can be an emotional and politically charged debate.