NATCA History Spotlight

John Carr Brings NATCA Into the New Millennium


Former NATCA President John Carr grew up in the Washington, D.C.-area delivering The Washington Post as a paper boy. He then spent four years as a Navy controller in Corpus Christi, Texas, and aboard the USS Eisenhower, including a 152-day deployment at sea without a port call — a record that stood for 22 years. He turned down a job offer from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a few days after the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike, but reconsidered when his brother counseled him on his career options.

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Chapter 71 Rights

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In mid-November 1995, Congress passed an annual appropriations act for the FAA that required the agency to implement a new personnel system and procurement procedures by April 1, 1996. In doing so, Congress exempted the FAA from a majority of the regulations contained in Title 5 of the United States Code. As a result, in addition to other potential changes, the agency could legally negotiate pay for the first time.

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History of the National Executive Board

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As NATCA began to grow, a provisional Executive Board was put into place beginning in 1984. At NATCA’s first organizing meeting on Jan. 11, 1986, the nominally elected members all came together to establish local goals regarding NATCA.

At the meeting, leadership envisioned that NATCA would become much more than a trade union, imagining a professional organization that would exercise influence over such matters as retirement, stress reduction, and restoring immunity programs for controllers who reported operational errors.

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Federal Labor Relations Authority Certifications

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On Jan. 5, 1987, NATCA filed an election petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to be the sole bargaining agent for all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operational GS-2152 air traffic controllers. The proposed union needed 3,750 signatures — 30 percent of the workforce — but was able to submit 5,800 signatures, or 46 percent. On March 4, 1987, the FLRA scheduled an election to decide whether NATCA would represent the nation’s controllers. On June 11, 1987, more than 80 percent of all controllers voted in NATCA’s certification election. Seventy percent approved the union as their sole bargaining agent.

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NATCA Finds a Home

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Interest in affiliating with NATCA exploded after the historic 1998 contract with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) secured a pay raise reflective of the important work the aviation safety professionals provide to the United States economy. Leadership searched for a building that would provide enough space for national office staff and committee meetings. On Jan. 1, 1996, NATCA began depositing $33,000 a month into a building fund. This fund would lead NATCA into the future.

Read more: NATCA Finds a Home