Amtrak’s Largest Union Doesn’t Want Capitol Hill Rioters on Its Trains

The call for increased security comes after flight attendants wanted pro-Trump rioters banned from planes.
January 13, 2021, 4:35pm
Capitol Rioters
ROBERTO SCHMIDT via Getty Images

The largest union of Amtrak workers called on Amtrak to step up security measures in and around Washington, D.C. in the wake of the Capitol riot, including banning people on the no-fly list from purchasing tickets.

Citing security enhancements at airports, the Transportation Communications Union (TCU) which represents many customer-facing positions such as those who work on the trains and in stations said Amtrak must do more to step up security especially at Washington's Union Station. 

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"At minimum, Amtrak must increase police presence at Washington DC’s Union Station, as well as staff all incoming trains to Washington, DC with uniformed Amtrak police officers," the statement said. "Amtrak should also explore the practicality of coordinating with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to utilize the 'No-fly' list in screening passenger manifests, and deny ticket sales to those passengers."

In a statement to Motherboard, Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said, “We understand the importance of the upcoming inaugural events and that tensions are high due to ongoing protests, so we are taking extra steps to continue ensuring the safety of our employees and customers.” The railroad is increasing police presence including plainclothes Amtrak police onboard and in stations and banning passengers who don’t follow policies such as wearing masks.

“The Amtrak Police Department is a member of the steering committee for the upcoming Inaugural Ceremonies and has prepared a robust strategy to secure our stations, trains and infrastructure,” Woods said. “We will also continue to work closely with and utilize the resources of our federal, state and local partners.”

It is not clear how many, if any, Capitol rioters took the train to D.C. while viral videos have shown far right Trump supporters accosting far right Senator Lindsey Graham at Reagan Airport and disrupting flights to and from the capital. The country's largest flight attendants union called for pro-Trump rioters to be banned from flying home from D.C.

"We’ve already seen disturbing behavior onboard airlines and at least one incident of racially-motivated harassment of an African-American flight attendant," the TCU statement said. "Many security enhancements have been made at our nation’s airlines and airports in recent days. Unfortunately, many of those entrenched security measures don’t exist for Amtrak stations, trains, employees and passengers."

Do you work for Amtrak? How do you feel about the safety of your workplace? Email Aaron Gordon at aaron.gordon@vice.com.

The call for increased security at rail stations, including the invocation of TSA-like procedures, comes at a time where many Americans, especially D.C. residents, are questioning what the vast expansion of the security state has actually provided in terms of increased safety if a few thousand lightly armed people could still force their way into the halls of power. To that end, one of the main benefits of rail versus air travel since 9/11 has been the lack of security screenings, increasing the comfort and convenience of traveling by rail.

Although the TCU's statement doesn't explicitly mention this as a concern, President-elect Joe Biden, a loyal Amtrak customer, plans to take Amtrak to D.C. for the inauguration. When asked about that, TCU spokesperson Kevin Gifford told Motherboard, “Both TCU and Amtrak are well aware of the President-Elect’s planned trip to DC. Like all inaugurations, it has been deemed a National Security Special Event (NSSE) and is therefore U.S. Secret Service is the lead agency. It’s not our place – nor our intention - to comment on Inauguration Day security measures. Our statement was meant to address the need for increased security measures for all passenger trains and stations - most notably DC’s Union Station - which was an entry and exit point for many of the Jan. 6th protestors and rioters.”