BLET sets the record straight, asks for apology following misleading Washington Post drug and alcohol article
CLEVELAND, October 2 — BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce today blasted a careless and inaccurate report published in the Washington Post, calling on the newspaper to issue an apology to the men and women who operate Amtrak’s locomotives.
On September 28, the Washington Post carried an article claiming to be based on a recent report by the Amtrak Inspector General. The headline read, “Amtrak watchdog says drug and alcohol use by train operators on the rise, causing safety risks.” The article’s lead sentence makes the false accusation that locomotive “engineers who operate Amtrak’s trains have been testing positive for drugs and alcohol more frequently over the last six years.”
President Pierce seethed at the misleading and inaccurate reporting. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” the BLET President said. “Zero of Amtrak’s more than 1,400 locomotive engineers tested positive for drug and alcohol use in 2011, and zero Amtrak locomotive engineers have tested positive for drugs and alcohol in post-accident testing since 1987.”
In a Letter to the Editor of the Post, President Pierce set the record straight. He wrote that the September 28 article is contradicted by facts found in the Report of the Amtrak Inspector General (IG), upon which the article claims to be based.
In direct contrast to the inaccurate headline, the Amtrak Inspector General report clearly states that “[n]one of Amtrak’s locomotive engineers tested positive in 2011.” Further, the IG report indicates that “locomotive engineers averaged only one positive test per year from 2006 through 2011.”
“While one positive test per year is one too many, that rate simply does not justify the nearly hysterical headline and lead sentence used in the article,” President Pierce said.
President Pierce also credited Operation RedBlock (ORB), the peer-to-peer drug and alcohol abuse prevention program in use at Amtrak and several other Class 1 railroads.
“Not a single federally-reportable accident or incident has occurred in which a locomotive engineer tested positive in the post-accident/incident alcohol or drug test since the labor-developed, Amtrak-adopted drug and alcohol identification program called Operation RedBlock was implemented in 1987.”
President Pierce concluded by calling on editors to apologize to the professional locomotive engineers who operate Amtrak’s trains.
“Both Amtrak management and Amtrak labor have worked hard for a substance-free workplace for more than a quarter of a century,” President Pierce wrote. “My membership has as strong an interest in achieving this goal as the traveling public does, and your article undermines that effort. The Post owes its readers much more stringent attention to detail in its reporting, and equally owes the men and women who operate Amtrak’s trains an apology.”
In a separate letter to Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, President Pierce pointed to anti-ORB hostility on the part of the IG, and the damage to the program caused by attempts to breach the confidentiality promised to railroad workers who participate in it. He also invited both to “join us in our effort to end these misrepresentations about Amtrak’s engineers, and instead, acknowledge success when it is deserved.”
PDF of President Pierce’s letter to Washington Post
PDF of President Pierce’s letter to Amtrak CEO Boardman and FRA Administrator Szabo
Tuesday, October 02, 2012