NATCA Hails Passage of Long-Term FAA Bill
Friday, February 10, 2012
On Oct. 30, 2006, then-newly elected NATCA Executive Vice President Paul Rinaldi participated in a panel at the Air Traffic Control Association’s annual conference. It was just a few weeks after the Bush Administration’s FAA had imposed work and pay rules on controllers, as well as NATCA’s TMU and NOTAM bargaining units. The NATCA Multi-Unit was already subjected to imposed work and pay rules at that point as well.
As one panel discussed the upcoming start of Congressional action on a new FAA reauthorization bill, Rinaldi joined another panel to discuss current issues and forcefully asserted NATCA’s top priority of never accepting the white book as a contract and fighting for fair collective bargaining rights to prevent any future unilateral imposition of work and pay rules.
“All this (imposed work rules) is affecting the performance and the safety of the system. Whether we want to or not, we must deal with these issues now before they have lasting effects on the future of the system. With labor peace and a properly staffed system, we will be able to look to the efforts to modernize the air traffic control system. And we want to be part of that.”
Nobody knew then that it would take five years and two dozen extensions of the existing FAA authorization to achieve a final bill, one that addresses the collective bargaining process at the FAA, among other things positive for NATCA. But shortly after 6 p.m. EST on Monday, February 6, Rinaldi – now NATCA’s President – watched along with NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert (NATCA’s Legislative Committee Chair before taking office as EVP) as the Senate voted 75-20 to approve the conference report compromise that finished work on a new four-year FAA Reauthorization bill.
The long-overdue action means the bill will provide funding for the FAA for the next four years. Long-term funding – including vital funds for the NextGen air traffic control system – will lead to safer and more reliable air travel.
“NATCA couldn’t be happier with Congress’ important action,” Rinaldi said in a press release that NATCA issued right after the final vote. “A long-term reauthorization bill will help ensure a safe, reliable aviation system and clear the way for implementation of much-needed technological advances like NextGen. This is a victory for air travelers and all of our dedicated aviation safety professionals.”
Gilbert noted the significance of the bill’s addressing of the collective bargaining process at the FAA:
“This bill guarantees that the impacted workforce – the FAA employees – will finally have a fair, collective bargaining process at the Agency. The final bill contains an essential collective bargaining provision (Sec. 601), which addresses the personnel management issues that permeated the FAA and soured its relationship with its workforce for much of the past decade. This critical provision ensures that the entire FAA workforce will never again have work and pay rules imposed upon them without a fair collective bargaining process.”
This was NATCA’s top legislative agenda item for several years. It took leadership, dedication and hard work from the national elected officers and the NEB, NATCA’s Government Affairs Department (Director Jose Ceballos and Political and Legislative Representatives Frank McCarthy and Erin Barry), Deputy General Counsel Eugene Freedman and other National Office staff, the National Legislative Committee (led now by Chairman Steve Weidner) and a large army of NATCAvists around the country to achieve this victory.
Even on the very last day of the legislative effort – Monday – victory was not certain before the vote. Other groups did not like what was contained in the bill and tried to kill its passage. NATCA worked to solicit the help from members in calling their Senators. The message was simple: This bill restores basic collective bargaining rights for union members at the FAA and avoids another shutdown like the one last summer that left many NATCA members and other FAA employees without a paycheck.
Stay tuned to further updates from the National Office and Paul and Trish’s Team Update for more on the bill. There will also be coverage of the bill’s passage in the upcoming winter 2012 issue of the Air Traffic Controller quarterly newsletter.