Another busy week at NATCA has come to an end and I have much to
report. Monday morning I was greeted by the Communications committee who came in
early and set up the 5th floor conference room with a network of laptops that
looked like command central. They spent the next three days and nights working
on the new Web presence for NATCA and managing the transition from Promark to
Verio. I know the transition has been difficult but once we are done the members
will benefit from the committee’s hard work. We will have a stable system that
meets our member’s needs, provides a comprehensive site for web access and
ultimately ensures that members will have access to the members only site
without having to worry about changing passwords.
My morning also
included a meeting with Rich Ulmes and Alan Clendenin to review the letters to
the editor initiative as well as the planning for NATCA in Washington. Jose
Ceballos joined NATCA as our new policy director. Donna Gunter kept him busy
early in the morning with orientation, and I spent the afternoon giving him
piles of reading material and briefings on contracting out, privatization and
the CSRS retirement issues. He is rapidly coming up to speed on our issues. If
you come by the office, be sure to stop in and meet him.
I had an emergency telcon with TDD. Ken Montoya, Christine Corcoran and Jose
Ceballos joined me on the telcon. All of the aviation labor unions were on board
to discuss the recent anti union press from the airlines. Each union spoke about
their concerns about the press activity around ATC privatization and our
response to the advocates. If was heartening to hear each of the other unions
discuss our issue so thoroughly that I barely had to say a word.
straight from the telcon to the NMI meeting in progress with Barry Kransner,
James Ferguson and Ed Mullin were working with our realtors. The 6th floor is
finally rented and needs to be built out for the new tenant. We discussed the
structure the NATCA/NMI relationship to structure the finances to preserve the
corporate division between the organizations and protect the members from
exposure to liability. We also went into in depth discussions of zero based
budgeting and protecting the funds to go into the benefits trust.
sad note, Ben Phelps, NATCA’s system administrator tendered his resignation so
that he could care for a family member in Texas. His last day will be March
15th. Ben also celebrated his 5th anniversary with NATCA this week. He will be
John and I worked to catch each other up on the activities of the
last week but our time has been very limited. We have had one meeting after
another and swapping pages and calls will have to substitute for our usual one
on one meetings. Tuesday brought more work with the communications committee
well into the evening and I was fortunate to enough to join them for dinner that
evening. The directors meeting brought usual updates and the membership
department is making their move to the 3rd floor. The monthly staff meeting
included 10 year recognition to Cheryl Cannon and Fran Bowman and Candi Derr’s
birthday. Carolyn Kamara distributed NATCA shirts from ZDC to the staff who went
on a facility visit and had one for John and I as well. Many thanks to the
members at Washington Center for treating us so well and to all of the
facilities that hosted visits.
The Bush budget included a provision to
study the problems with the ATC system and specifically to examine “the
successes of privatized systems.” This was an earlier strike than we expected,
but not one that we were unprepared for. The story was picked up by the
Washington Post and our response was simply that we are glad they are going to
study other systems because we know that a thorough study will lead them to the
same thing that we have found, that privatization is a bad idea for the
The NEB telcon covered a myriad of issues including a rumor about my
position on CIP. The Runzheimer’s study will begin shortly and we cannot make
any assumptions until we see what the data says. Once the study is complete we
will take the data to the NEB to see if they want to pursue any policy
John and I met with Susan Grundman and Mike Doherty to review
proposed training for our directors in order to implement our personnel
evaluation system to make sure we have the legal bases covered. Donna Gunter has
been working on formalizing our human resources process and this is a
significant step forward. John and I will review and approve the position
descriptions after the general counsel staff is done with the legal beagle part.
Wednesday morning on the way to work I remembered that it is the
Secretary of Transportation, not the FAA administrator that has the power to
grant waivers to the age limit. The Legislative affair department is working on
a legislative fix to allow CSRS employees to work until they reach retirement
eligibility as FERS employees are currently permitted to do. We have members
that will be only a few weeks short of eligibility when they are forced out. I
spoke with Monte Belger on this topic in Maastrict and it seemed there may be an
opportunity to fix this problem if the legislative effort is not successful.
Jose came to us fresh out of the Secretary of Transportation’s office and may
have some insight.
Christine Corcoran, Jose and I had a joint meeting to
discuss all of the options. The legislative fix is the best option, but we want
a fall back in case congressional gridlock prevents it. The biggest question we
have is how many people fall into this category. I have heard estimates as high
as 300, but my sense is that the number is much lower. I sent out a page to the
NEB and I have been getting calls back ever since. My thanks to everyone that
has paged me back so far. If you have members that fall in this category and
have not paged me, please do so ASAP. The pin is 64809.
I had a telcon
with HDR to finalize the contract for the economic study on the cost of
contracting out for the appropriations cycle followed by a privatization
economic impact study. We had a flurry of afternoon press activity to answer the
privatization comments in the budget, which stopped when the SEA earthquake
occurred and the press had a better story to tell.
department has been working hard preparing a member get a member recruitment
campaign and it was officially launched on Thursday. Along with recruiter
incentives there will be recognition for facilities that “close the gap” by
recruiting high percentages of non-members as well as recognizing those
facilities that have had consistently high membership percentages.
Connor, from NARI and Jim Beadling from the Article 55 team came in to brief on
the OE study that NARI just completed. Mike advised that it is “outside the box”
and Jim expressed some concern with the weighting methodology. I would have like
to have had a copy of the report before the meeting to review it prior to the
briefing, but I will go over it and call Mike with any questions later.
Thursday also brought a pleasant surprise from ATA who issued a press
release denying the airlines supported privatization. This little tidbit came in
very handy on Friday.
Wade Standfield and Blackie kept us up to date on
the SEA situation and Blackie gave a heads up that our controllers were heroic
during the quake. Doug Church had some trouble getting through to the facility
for obvious reasons, but a quick call to Carol Branaman and we got all the
information needed to pitch the stories to the major news media. Not only was it
a NATCA member working in the tower when the quake occurred, but it was the Fac
Rep, and he was outstanding in his press interviews. Brian represented his
fellow members and his profession admirably during the event and during what
must have been dozens of interviews including live national broadcasts. He gave
credit to all who worked to keep the system functioning, looked great on TV and
displayed the NATCA logo proudly. Great Job Brian!
quietly, but that didn’t last long. Candi Derr brought up a stack of new member
letter to sign, which means the huge pile John and I signed two weeks ago are
already gone. I met with Lew Zietz to finalize some outstanding issues including
the NATCA trade booth that I will be taking to the Women in Aviation Conference
along with a healthy supply of “I am not for sale/Don’t privatize me” buttons.
If there are any controllers in Reno that are interested in booth duty, please
give me a call.
Courtney Barron, who has been acting Communications
Director since Sherrod Shim’s departure reviewed the resumes that came in since
we advertised the position and made interview recommendations. We will be
interviewing next week. Adell Humphreys and Tim Casten laid out the requirements
for our network engineer (systems administrator) opening and Donna will
advertise it. We have Delfin on standby if we are not able to fill the position
before Ben departs.
Late Friday afternoon, Doug Church who had been
handling SEA earthquake calls all day came to me and asked if I wanted to do a
live radio debate head to head with Robert Poole. You bet I was! Ken, Jose and
Doug ended their day prepping me for the interview. It was a conservative host
on WJR in Detroit. WJR is a clear channel AM station that reaches 36 states. I
had a business dinner with a group from MITRE to follow up on a think tank
proposal that we had discussed in Maastricht and it was a very productive
meeting. Ken Montoya accompanied me and we set the ball in motion to create a
product that will offer a logical plan and keep policy makers from latching onto
ideas like privatization.
After dinner it was back to the office for the
8pm live radio debate. Jose had returned to the office, we polished up the
message, prepared for anything they might throw at me and went on the air. The
host gave Poole a chance to tell his story and then asked him how any of his
organizational changes would do anything to help a system that is overburdened
with flights and doesn’t have enough runways and gates. I was able to point out
that it was not just NATCA that opposed this idea, it was ATA, NWA, AOPA and
others. That ATA press release was just in time.
Finally, I paid NATCA’s
Have a great weekend!