Why You Need NATCA – A Member’s Story
Friday, November 09, 2012

Alex Buser, Jamie's wife Mikki, son JP, Jamie and daughter Alexis

By Mark Wilson
Labor Relations Staff Representative
NATCA National Office

Jamie Snow is an air traffic controller and NATCA member from Miami Center (ZMA) who has been working traffic since 1984. He occasionally worked in the Programs and Airspace departments, assisting in bringing the Agency into the computer age and helping with airspace changes, etc., on his own time because he had a knack for it.

But in 2007, Snow had a back injury and was given other less strenuous duties due to his temporary incapacity. His medical issues continued into 2009, at which point the medical department declared him permanently restricted, forcing the FAA to start a removal action.

During the period of incapacitation, Snow was given temporary duties under Article 45 in the Airspace office. This worked well for FAA and Snow as FAA needed his expertise and couldn't otherwise obtain his unique services and talent when he was working full-time as a controller.  

When the FAA decided that it had to remove Snow from employment due to his medical issues, numerous managers spoke out in support of retaining Snow as a valuable employee. FAA decided to create a vacancy bid for the work Snow was then performing in Airspace and let Snow bid for the job. He bid and was selected. However, other management officials decided that the bid could not go to someone who did not have a valid medical, despite the fact that the work didn’t require it.  

The FAA then denied Snow the bid, and assigned the work to someone else — who also didn’t have current medical. The agency also went forward with removal. The Airspace office offered Snow a position to prevent him from being terminated, but at a lower pay rate, outside the pay and pension plan for controllers. Snow then grieved the removal from air traffic control status and the pay reduction.

In March 2011, the arbitrator ruled that the FAA should not have removed Snow and ordered the agency to reinstate him to the staff position he bid on and should have received. FAA then filed exceptions with the FLRA, challenging the arbitrator’s basis for his award. The FLRA recently dismissed the FAA’s appeal, ordering the FAA to comply with the arbitration decision.  

Initially, the parties could not agree on the remedy that the arbitrator required. Due to the passage of time, the temporary vacancy Snow should have received had expired and been re-posted and filled again. Consequently, the FAA claimed that Snow was no longer entitled to reinstatement.

Despite the fact that Snow had recovered from his injury, the FAA was unwilling to place Snow back into the staff position or his controller job. The FAA also wanted to cut back pay and benefits as of the expiration of the temporary staff position. NATCA demanded full reinstatement, full back pay, interest and other make-whole relief, and also demanded that the FAA pay attorney fees for all of the work that NATCA had to perform in order to straighten out the wrongful actions taken against Snow.

Eventually, the FAA relented. It agreed to full reinstatement to a temporary staff position, payment of back-pay, with interest and other relief, and also agreed to pay NATCA substantial attorneys’ fees, which amounted to $56,000. Naturally, Mr. Snow was thrilled with the result.

“It’s important to me to share my story because, without NATCA, I truly believe this injustice would never have been righted,” he said. “The stress to an individual and his family can be overwhelming when management doesn't do the right thing, especially in a termination. Once an issue has to be resolved beyond your facility, the family you've known there cannot really help you much. It takes on a life of its own and the FAA departments making the decisions don’t really seem to care how valuable you were or what experience you have. All you have fighting for you is your Union!”  

Snow would like to thank his local, regional and national representatives and the entire NATCA family for saving his job and his family.

ZMA NATCA Staff Rep Steve Haller and Jamie Snow

ZMA NATCA Staff Rep Steve Haller and Jamie Snow