Protests force feds to back down on airplane knives

WASHINGTON – Union protests, led by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, forced the Obama administration’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on April 24 to yank its plan to let airplane passengers bring small knives aboard planes.

Now AFA-CWA and its allies — the Teamsters, the Machinists, the Transport Workers and, lastly, the Air Line Pilots — want to make sure the ban is permanent. TSA won’t admit that yet: It said it mishandled the rollout of the knife plan.

TSA Administrator John Pistole unveiled his knife plan on March 5.  He also would let small baseball bats onto planes.  Terrorists and hijackers can use both knives and bats as weapons to overwhelm flight crews and take over planes, as the al-Qaeda terrorists used box cutters to commandeer planes on Sept. 11, 2001, unions say.

 “In order to accommodate further input from the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from the aviation community, passenger advocates, law enforcement experts, and other stakeholders, TSA will temporarily delay implementation of changes to the prohibited items list, originally scheduled to go into effect April 25,” Pistole said in a memo to his staff.

“In the face of a huge backlash from Flight Attendants, nearly every other stake-holder in aviation and the public, TSA postponed its plan to allow knives on U.S. flights,” AFA said.   “But the 90,000-member Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which opposed the ill-advised plan from the start, remains resolute: No knives on planes ever again.

“The United States has banned all knives from commercial flights since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks for good reason: Knives were the terrorists’ weapons of choice in bringing down four jetliners and murdering thousands of Americans.  All knives should be banned from planes permanently,” the unions added.

If Pistole wants to enact “this drastic departure” in policy, he should try to do it the legal way, by putting his proposal out for public comment and reaction, which he did not, the coalition stated.   If he did that, the coalition predicted, public reaction would reject it.

The coalition also garnered support against letting knives on planes from other unions, such as the Steel Workers, from passenger groups and from dozens of lawmakers.  Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., both said they would introduce legislation overturning Pistole’s plan unless he withdrew it.

Photo: TSA workers sort through confiscated items, including knives.   Lawrence Jackson/AP


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.