Finally, NATCA Catches a Break

7:08 PM

Anyone who follows the political rodeo that FAA has become these days knows all too well that our country's Air Traffic Controllers have been working for years without a labor contract. During this period, NATCA's controllers were being given a raw deal while anyone who could have solved the problem seemed more than willing to look the other way.

I have received weekly press releases and personal emails from NATCA management and controllers describing working conditions that at best are deplorable, and at worst, might be the cause of a major air accident waiting to happen.

During the last eight years, for some reason, BushCo put their hatred for labor ahead of air safety, and refused to even come to the table with NATCA and discuss a decent labor deal. After Jane Garvey was "termed out", interim Administrator, Bobby Sturgell showed us his marching orders from Bush/Cheney were clear – a humane labor deal with NATCA was out of the question.

Well, we all are happy to report that the Cowboy has left for Texas and a new Sheriff is running the show in Washington. And the new guy – um, that would be Barack Obama – is a friend of labor and the middle class, and he found a nominee for new FAA Administrator that ought to be able to fix this NATCA mess quickly. From

"Another major priority for [FAA administrator nominee Randy] Babbitt after he is confirmed will be resolving a long-running labor dispute with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. He said this is a two-part process, and the first step will be addressing the current contract that was imposed on controllers and has remained a sore point. The administration has already acknowledged that this agreement has to be revised, Babbitt said. Controllers and the administration also have to look at the longer term, and reform the process for negotiating contracts, Babbitt believes. The current process is “too subject to politics...there needs to be a more balanced, neutral approach.” For an initiative as ambitious as NextGen, “we need employees on board,” he said."
Man, what a FAA Administrator that understands that NATCA controllers will be the heart of NextGen. As has been the case for many of our President's new appointees, Obama picked a guy who understands the job he is being asked to do – he is not just some BFF from the "Heckuva Job Brownie" Country Club. Babbitt knows FAA from a couple of key perspectives...this is from an AFL-CIO blog but is being reported everywhere:
"Capt. Randy Babbitt, who spent 25 years in the cockpit beginning with Eastern Airlines and served two terms as president of the Air Line Pilots (ALPA)."
So Babbitt knows life on a professional flight deck, and he knows labor issues. This will explain why he so easily connects the dots on the value of NATCA's men and women in any attempt by FAA to build the next generation of ATC. And if you think NATCA is happy about it all, you are right. Here is their Prez, Patrick Forrey:
“On behalf of the 20,000 aviation safety professionals NATCA represents, I congratulate Mr. Babbitt on his nomination. The most critically urgent task facing Mr. Babbitt in terms of safety and labor relations is returning to the bargaining table with NATCA to end nearly 1,000 days of imposed terms and conditions of employment and reach a collective bargaining agreement. I am confident that this will not only be the first thing on Mr. Babbitt’s to-do list but that it will be done with respect to both President Obama and Transportation Secretary LaHood’s call for change in how the FAA treats its employees and how it must seek collaboration instead of confrontation."
My flying friends, this is change we can believe in. See, voting does matter.

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