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FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

How’s About a Universal Worker ID Card?

Whether or not you like the idea, the framework is in place, thanks to our beloved Department of Homeland Security.

Under the authority of the Marine Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in conjunction with the Coast Guard (USCG), has instituted the TWIC (Transportation Worker Identity Credential).

* Who must get a TWIC?
We anticipate that over 1.2 million individuals will apply for a TWIC. This includes Coast Guard-credentialed merchant mariners, port facility employees, long shore workers, truck drivers, and others requiring unescorted access to secure areas of maritime facilities and vessels regulated by MTSA. …
* What can disqualify me from getting a TWIC?
An individual who lacks lawful presence and certain immigration status in the United States, has a connection to terrorist activity, has been determined to lack mental capacity or was convicted of certain crimes will be ineligible for a TWIC. …
* How much does a TWIC cost?
The fee for TWIC is $132.50 and is valid for five years. Workers with current, comparable background checks will pay a reduced fee of $105.25. …

Sounds harmless, you say. Maybe a good thing. Well, there’s a certain problem with letting the camel get his nose in the tent …

As originally conceived, TWIC was to be required of certain key jobs at ports, like the people with access to engine rooms, etc. As it turns out, just about everyone working at the ports, and the truck drivers delivering goods to and from the ports, will be required to carry a TWIC.

The oil industry provides the blueprint of how it will be extended to other industries. By law, only “MTSA-covered facilites” fell under TSA/USCG jurisdiction for TWIC: those were the (fairly rare) offshore platforms and facilities that process or handle in excess of 100,000 barrels per day of crude oil. In the Gulf of Mexico, they numbered no more than 10-20 out of some 3,800 platforms; that would have directly involved a couple thousand employees, tops.

The problem arose when the operators of those big facilities decided they did not want the headache of administering an ID card program for only certain employees with certain access. They would need to figure out the grey areas of who needed the card, when and who would accompany non-card-carrying contractors if they ever had need to visit a secure area. It was much easier for the operators to say: “All of our employees, and all of our contractors, must have a TWIC.” And that’s precisely what Shell, BP, and some of the other big boys did.

OK, well that’s fine. But then some of the transportation companies (boat & helicopters) foresaw their problem of administering which personnel could be transported to which facilities. It became easier for them to say, “Fine. Everyone we transport will have to have a TWIC.”

So what began as a program to insure port security rather quickly became a de facto worker ID program for all the workers in the Gulf of Mexico, few of whom will ever be exposed to the kind of critical homeland security scenario originally envisioned, and the vast majority of whom will never set foot on a MTSA-regulated facility. (This policy is not yet universally in place, but it is clearly where the program is headed.)

Total # Enrolled: 1,161,942
Total # Cards Issued: 961,685

“American ports from coast to coast are more secure today because of the significant progress this program has made,” said Gale Rossides, acting administrator, Transportation Security Administration (TSA). “Enrolling 1 million workers in less than 18 months is a testament to the collaborative efforts of TSA and the United States Coast Guard on this important maritime security effort.”

Today, 36 of the 42 Captain of the Port Zones across the country require workers to have a TWIC. All ports must be in compliance with credential requirements by April 14, 2009. Port security personnel are trained to ensure workers have valid cards and Coast Guard officials are conducting random compliance inspections at these ports.

And on that, I throw the Bulls**t Flag. I check a few months ago, when the total screened was 900,000 or so, and the total number of cards issued was around 600,000. I don’t remember the exact number, but there were 60 or so rejects at that time. We are going to a lot of cost and effort to filter out something like 1 person in 10,000.

Thanks to my good friend achance and others, I am paranoid enough to see where this baby is heading. Soon, all truck drivers nationwide will be required to carry the card, then the workers on the loading docks they visit, on and on until it’s a Universal Worker ID.

And that will make it really easy to get them unionized. Once we get Card Check. And that will make us all so much more secure.

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