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Sisters and Brothers,
As I sit in the terminal at BWI waiting to return to Florida for the holiday weekend, I am taking great pleasure in listening to the restless passengers complaining about the hour plus delay. They are angry and frustrated and just don’t seem to believe the story they are getting about having to “warm up the airplane” okay, so they had to replace a fuel gauge. But any delay that they don’t blame on ATC is fine with me. It even gives me time to type up my update before I get home.
Yet another busy week has come to an end. Early Monday morning I returned to DC from Toronto, where my husband and I had enjoyed a brief weekend getaway. The office was buzzing with activity. After catching up with some paperwork and e-mail, I met with dozens of people on as many issues and prepared for the weekly telcon. There were still some loose ends to tie up from last week, including finding out why NATCA was not invited to a “high level” ADS-B meeting. “High-level” is a popular FAA HQ term for, “we are going to talk to the dash-1’s and we don’t want them to know anything that may be going wrong with the program” I spoke to Monte Belger and not only was the meeting postponed, but he would be more than happy to have NATCA there.
I exchanged pages with John, who was still in an incompatible time zone, but I think he got used to waking up at the crack of down by the sweet sound of his pager. We had a nice little flurry of press calls to answer and work continued on getting the mayor of DC to declare January 11, NATCA day. My thanks to Christine Corcoran for making that happen. I spoke to Lew Zeitz about some work he has going on to identify new benefits and some new and exciting membership items. By the way, the nice NATCA denim jacket may become a collector’s item. The supplier is going to a different manufacturer and the denim is not as heavy. Go to guy that Lew is, he bought up the remaining supply of the current style so we can keep them in stock as long as possible.
Courtney Portner stopped in my office to gather information on the one local structure of many of the new bargaining units, I forward what I had and luckily we had our trusty engineers answering contract calls (their ratification votes are counted at the end of the month) and were able to give her an interview. An ad hoc group from the NLC was also in town to plan NATCA in Washington and I was able to spend some time with them to discuss the agenda and get my marching orders.
On Tuesday, it was off to BWI to catch a flight to MCI for the Central Region Fac Rep meeting. What a great trip! I am always touched by the hospitality of my friends in the Central region. Their meeting was in full swing when I got there, but John Tune carved out some time for me to talk to the members and answer questions. After the meeting we went to a local comedy club and laughed about a red wagon. (you really had to be there) Paul Hansen was my kind escort and took me back to the airport Wednesday morning. John Tune asked him what he was doing at 7am, then asked if he minded watching my plane take off since he would have to drive me to the airport earlier than that. It was nice to get out in the field again, there is nothing I like more than the chance to talk to our members.
Wednesday I went straight from the airport to the office to catch up on a bunch of messages, paperwork, e-mail and the miscellaneous office issues. There were so many things that came and went that I barely remember what they were, luckily I have notes back in the office. I gave two interviews including one for Time Magazine about the top 10 things George Bush can do to improve aviation. The reporter really knew what she was talking about and understood the complexities of our profession. It was genuinely refreshing, especially compared to the reporter who said “so say a controller had 2 or 3 operational errors in a month” and when I said most controllers don’t have that many in a career, he said “well just for the sake of argument…” Anyway, she beat me to the first answer – build more runways.
Thursday was booked with an all day Privatization Conference sponsored by the Economic Policy Institute. They are a group that I had contacted to identify an economist who might be interested in working on a research paper to add facts to our battle against privatization. Randy Weiland and Christine Corcoran also went to the conference where we ran into Abby, the PASS lobbyist. We gathered a lot of good information. During one of the afternoon panels, the Federal rep from AFSCME, who I have been planning to contact, asked some pointed questions and conveniently in a room of 300 people, he was sitting right behind me. The economist that had been recommended to me was one of the speakers. He wrote a book that scrutinized the real costs of popular privatized services showing that they often cost more that keeping the service in government.
I passed a few notes with Randy Weiland about making the Columbia University professor our new best friend and as soon as the Q&A was over, I turned to talk with the AFSCME rep (BTW they have some great anti-privatization information on their web site) about working together against ATC privatization and turned to see that Randy and Christine had snagged the professor and brought him over to me. We have an appointment to discuss the research project next week. Luckily, it will be the day after our privatization/contracting groups come to DC to meet with John and I to streamline and refocus NATCA’s activities.
Back to the office after the conference where I had 15 messages waiting and so much e-mail that I had to forward it to my home account so I could catch up this weekend. I can’t imagine how much has piled up for John while he has been out of the office. A call from our oceanic IPT liaison took me away from the office to catch up on the status of the oceanic modernization effort. Word in the halls is that they are going to go after contracting out oceanic service again this year. As we were talking, I wondered exactly who it could be contracted to. A thorough briefing gave me the facts I needed. NAVCANADA doesn’t have the capacity or automation to take the Pacific and Australia and New Zealand don’t have the ability (and I don’t imagine the interest) to take the Atlantic. No one could get a system up and running faster than we can at this point. Mainly because they would have to start from scratch and would not have the controllers.
Unfortunately, these arguments about the risks of contracting out any major service make full-scale privatization look more attractive to those that are bound and determined to make a big move. NAVCANADA bought all of the personnel and equipment from Transport Canada. Anyone who still doesn’t think privatization is on some people’s agenda, check out the CATO Institute’s guidebook for the 107th Congress. I don’t want to spoil the ending, so it can be found at www.cato.org, there is a PDF version.
USA today ran a letter supposedly supporting the AAL TWA merger, but slid into ATCA bashing and included privatizing ATC. Our response went out this afternoon. Speaking of this afternoon, I came in this morning with meetings scheduled with Dale Wright, Tim Casten, Sussan Tsui-Grundmann, thinking I was going to get to skate, when Doug Church breezed in to ask if I could give an on camera interview to Fox news. What we thought was going to be a quest for sound bites to air tonight, turned out to be an hour-long interview that they are planning for Feb. sweeps.
Well, this plane is packed like a can of sardines and the guy next to me can’t seem to stop fidgeting, so I guess I will call it a week.