Rinaldi Participates in “Working Together” Panel at Aviation Summit
Friday, April 20, 2012

From left to right: Paul, Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President and Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer Ron Ricks, Retired US Airways Sr. VP Public Affairs C.A. Howlett and former American Airlines and AMR Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert L. Crandall.

Each year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Chamber Foundation host an aviation summit to bring together top experts and leaders from all sectors of aviation to discuss critical issues facing the industry.

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi participated on the summit’s “Working Together” panel with fellow union presidents and airline leaders, including Association of Flight Attendants International President Veda Shook and Air Line Pilots Association International President Captain Lee Moak.

Panel moderator and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AMR Corporation and American Airlines Robert Crandall started the session by asking each panelist why labor relations in the aviation industry is more contentious than in other industries. He also asked for each person’s view on how labor and management can effectively work together.

Captain Moak responded first and said that labor relations in the industry is moving forward, but needs to focus its efforts on being able to compete globally. Moak added that labor and management need to work together in order to level the playing field to compete with foreign carriers.  

Shook followed, remarking that everyone in the aviation industry needs to not only find a way to keep the nation’s aviation system as the benchmark of a world-class system, but also maintain a system in which employees are proud of their professions and have the tools they need to be ambassadors for their industry.

Rinaldi said both management and labor need to understand the common mission of their organizations and they need to be on the same team about that mission in order to be successful. He gave an example of how former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt started his time as Administrator after the imposed work rules period. Administrator Babbitt took charge to change the culture of the FAA and improve management relations with employees, making sure all parties shared the common interest of running the safest most efficient aviation system in the world.

Rinaldi emphasized that the only way to get all parties to understand the mission is to get everyone involved, share a common goal and understand the matters at stake. In the case of U.S. aviation that goal is to continue to be the world leader and run the safest, most complex and most efficient system in the world.

Rinaldi’s point about the importance of all parties being on the same team was further emphasized when Crandall asked Rinaldi about NATCA’s involvement in NextGen and the program’s impact on NATCA members.

Rinaldi discussed how from 2003 to 2009 the FAA worked on En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) without input from air traffic controllers or any collaboration. When ERAM was finally deployed two years late and with two $2 billion already invested in it, the program didn’t work.

“As a representative of management it’s hard to accept the notion of that…saying that I’m going to design this system but never ask the people who are actually using it to help design it,” Crandall interjected.

Rinaldi continued, and said that he is pleased to be able to say that since 2009 NATCA has been heavily involved in the program development. But there was a lesson learned that there has to be a common goal and theme, and everyone should have ownership in the project.

“We should all be involved to make this a success,” said Rinaldi. “We need to learn from the past. When we talk about NextGen programs we’ve got to be involved right from the beginning and have the same goal to save fuel, have cleaner skies and be a part of cutting edge aviation.”