May 25, 2001

Sisters and Brothers,

It feels like I just finished my last update and it is time for another one. Monday I go to spend a whole blissful day in the office. I caught up on e-mail, got the usual Monday’s worth of messages and phone calls. I feel like I talked to everyone that I didn’t see at lobby week and spent some time going over issue that came up last week. I talked to a rep from IIR who is putting together a single skies conference in Europe and would like NATCA’s endorsement. One of the prices of raising our profile in the world is that everyone wants you to like their stuff. The conference is exclusively European issues except one segment where Charlie Keegan is speaking on Free Flight. Hmmmm.

After plowing through a huge inbox, a long phone call with John and meeting with Dale Wright, Jose Ceballos, Fran Bowman, and a telcon with NATCA’s auditor, it was off to the airport to catch a flight to LAS to join the Communications Committee meeting in progress.

Tuesday, I joined the Communications Committee who has the most unusual meetings in NATCA. They have laptops set up around the room all plugged into a T1 line and they go stream of consciousness for hours on end. They look like command central and they are watching each other make changes to the site in real time. They don’t need to write anything on big paper because they are implementing while they are talking. While I was there they set up the Safety and Tech database that is up and running now. The NEB minutes will be available in the same type database as soon as they get the files. I attended the meeting solely to discuss the options available for setting up a website focused on the issues related to ATC privatization. I want it to be an academic type site to serve as a resource for press and researchers looking at the issue. I know you can find the pro-privatization side, but there isn’t anything that provides a forum for the opposition side.

Before I finished my sentence, they had snagged the URL’s ATCprivatization.com, .net, and .org. (Privatization.com was already taken by, guess who…RPPI). We will unveil the site as soon as the layout is done and we have enough content to make it more than NATCA propaganda. I had two opportunities to address the Fac Reps who were in training down the hall. The first was to recognize the work of the Communications Committee for their work on the web site followed by a Q&A from the reps and the second was to introduce Dale Wright who is doing an unprecedented number of local audits to help keep our reps out of orange jumpsuits.

That evening, after incurring my standard gambling loses (which is why I don’t like meetings in Vegas) I grabbed the red eye back to DC. I arrived back Wednesday morning to find the FAA had to reschedule our 11:00 meeting to discuss retirement projections, which gave me time to talk to Jose and Ken about the possibility of Jefford defecting to the Dems. Jose came into my office to say that we may have just solved our oceanic contracting risk, I told him I had just gotten he call that they FAA will award the contract to Lockheed and he said Shelby would lose the committee. I was soundly chastised for my “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude, but I am pretty skittish about counting my chickens.

I prepared for my afternoon meeting with GAO. They arrived right on time and we talked about retirement projections. They have decided that an employee survey is the best way to gather accurate information on which to base retirement projections. I couldn’t agree more. They have greater access to FAA data than we did so they are able to target their survey. They are going to survey those who may retire in the next ten years, so we talked about the criteria they would have to use to get a valid subset. I suggested they identify all FAA employees with 10 or more years of good time, since those in staff positions may return to the bargaining unit and could be used to bring the results into question if excluded.

They have been talking to non bargaining unit members for background and to validate some of NATCA’s assumptions, which of course they confirmed. I also mentioned how some GAO work, especially the CIC research that FMA is intentionally trying to skew, may make our members concerned about talking to them. They understood and asked for NATCA’s help in getting cooperation. They are looking for a 70% return rate. I told them that as long as we have an opportunity to review the questions and our member’s anonymity is protected that we are as anxious as they are to get good data. Once the survey is out, it is important that those surveyed give the most accurate answers they can. I know if you have 10 years left, there are still some unknowns in your retirement plan, but give the most accurate response you can given what you know now.

Maureen, our new newsletter editor joined the meeting to talk about what NATCA can do to help publicize the survey in order to promote high response rates. Since the GAO has a great deal of experience in survey execution, they have resources that NATCA did not. Specifically, they can do follow up mailings to non-respondents that is auto generated based on coding.

Thursday morning it was back to the airport to catch a flight to Montreal to represent NATCA at the CATCA convention. They are in the process of amending their governing documents to allow the CAW merger to go through and it is important that they know that continuing our alliance is important to NATCA. They have been an invaluable resource in our efforts to put out the truth about privatization. Our situation in the US is nowhere near the state of Transport Canada when they voted for privatization. We already have the latitude that they were seeking out of privatization.

I heard Jefford’s speech in the airport and tried not to do a no-contracting dance in the terminal. Since the threat had always come from the Senate, not the House, this is a big deal for us. However, this is just a good turn of events, the issue is far from closed. We must continue with our efforts to educate the public and members of Congress about the risks of both expanding the contract tower program and privatization. Another bit of good news is that it increases the likelihood that our CSRS bill will move through the process smoothly in the Senate.
I arrived in Montreal and wished I had paid more attention in High School French class. I got to the Hotel, downloaded my e-mail and answered a dozen waiting messages. Today was the opening of the CATCA convention so after an early morning phone call with John, I joined the session. Jean Robert Dumphries, EVP Americas was there and we had a chance to discuss the upcoming AMA RSG (Americas Regional Support Group). Since there are so many issues affecting controllers in the region, Robert asked if we could have a special meeting in June. Luckily, he wants to have it in Miami. In addition to the ongoing problems in Argentina, two controllers in Mexico have been jailed and charges with homicide by omission after a plane they were working crashed. After the investigation revealed it was CFIT, and the controllers exonerated, only one was released. It is believed that the other is being held for political reasons. Additionally, 38 controllers in the Bahamas are under 90 day suspensions for working to rule and while they have won their case, the government is appealing it.

CATCA recessed for the evening and we start back in the morning. The convention adjourns Monday night and I will be back in the office Tuesday morning.

In solidarity,

Ruth Marlin




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