Union blasts TSA for putting interests of knife lobbyists over flying public
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Knife industry lobbyists appear to have played a key role in getting the Transportation Security Administration to allow knives back on commercial aircraft for the first time since 9/11.
After intense lobbying by knife manufacturers and knife industry groups, the policy change that will allow small knives on airplanes is set to take effect April 25. While knife advocates had their voices heard at TSA headquarters, TSA failed to consult with the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents 45,000 Transportation Security Officers.
In a press release issued after the decision was made, the American Knife & Tool Institute – a lobbying group run by knife manufacturers – touted itself as being “instrumental” in TSA’s decision to remove small knives from its list of prohibited items.
“So now we know where this reckless and dangerous policy change came from,” said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “This wasn’t strictly about improving the screening process at our nation’s airports, as TSA has claimed. The knife lobby fought for the change, but TSA never disclosed closed-door meetings with knife advocates when the policy change was announced.
“This decision compromises the safety of TSOs, flight attendants and the flying public for the benefit of the knife industry. Congress must step in and reverse this misguided policy change,” Cox said.
According to the American Knife & Tool Institute, six of its most senior lobbyists met with several top level officials from the Homeland Security Department on Sept. 20 to argue for lifting the knife ban. In its press statement, the group quoted an unnamed senior advisor at TSA as saying the meeting was “invaluable” in the agency’s decision to allow small knives aboard airplanes.
Even more troubling, it seems that the lobbyists have been emboldened by their victory and plan to push for allowing even more knives on airplanes. ATKI Vice President Rod Bremer, president of Columbia River Knife & Tool, complained that the knives TSA will allow on airplanes “are somewhat limited” but that the policy change “is a huge step in the right direction.”
AFGE has joined with the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA in calling on TSA to reverse its policy change and supports ongoing efforts by lawmakers in the House and Senate to pass legislation that would keep all knives off airplanes.