A Transportation Security Administration effort to help protect ports against terrorism was creation of a tamper-resistant biometric worker-access pass known as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) that is issued, in addition to maritime workers, to rail crews entering port facilities.

Obtaining a TWIC requires submitting to a FBI background check and completion of a security threat assessment. Some 6,500 rail employees currently hold a TWIC.

The program, initiated in 2009, has had problems, however, and the UTU National Legislative Office, in conjunction with the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, has been working with congressional lawmakers on various improvements.

One problem nearing solution is a logistical and financial burden for workers in renewing their TWIC credential.

The House Homeland Security Committee has taken the first step toward solution by approving legislation (H.R. 4251) – which still must be approved by the entire House and the Senate – to postpone requiring workers to renew their TWIC credential until June 30, 2014, and mandating reforms relating to enrollment, activation, issuance and renewal.

“Despite concerns about the program from the outset, workers across the country fulfilled their legal obligations by applying for the TWIC biometric cards, which, without the proper hardware in place at ports, turns TWIC cards into expensive flash passes,” the Transportation Trades Department told lawmakers. “The first wave of applicants, beginning in October, must pay $132.50 to renew their cards if this legislation is not enacted.”

This bill also would ensure workers are required to make only one in-person visit to an enrollment center, lifting a logistical burden from workers who may be hundreds of miles away while on the job.