Member Focus: Connie Thompson Jr. (DCA)
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Connie with wife Shonzie and daughter Taylor
Air traffic control career: Started at his current facility, Washington National (DCA), in Oct. 2008.
Born and raised, other places of living: Born and raised in Washington, D.C.
Family: Wife Shonzia and a two-year-old daughter, Taylor
Q: How did you become a NATCA member?
A: When I was in Oklahoma City at the Academy, we had an introductory course or session of what NATCA and its union was all about. I spoke with the folks at NATCA on what it was like to be in the Union. They mentioned how they network upward mobility and it's a great place to start a career. Having that input with those folks, along with knowing I was a new hire, it seemed a given.
Q: How did you get involved and what are you involved in with NATCA?
A: I was DCA vice president from Jan. 2011 to Sept. 2012. I became FacRep in Sept. 2012, which is the position I currently serve. It's been a blast being FacRep. I also want to say that we have an excellent vice president, Terry Halsey. From getting me involved in NATCA to always being there when I need him, he's been a guide and foundation for me. Since I'm relatively young as a NATCA member, it's great to look up to someone like Terry who has been doing this for 10 years. He's been vice president at Kendell-Tamiami Airport and here at National. So he's definitely a guy I can count on with representing our membership at the facility.
Q: What made you decide to take on leadership roles within NATCA?
A: I was never the type who just sat by and voiced my concerns without really stepping up. It takes a lot of courage to step up as a leader, to not only voice your concerns but to be proactive and make a change. But that's what I wanted to do. It's also great because I feel like I can carry on the great tradition of our former FacReps and VPs by working with our members and facility.
Q: Out of all your involvement within NATCA, what speaks to you the most?
A: The members. It's never a dull moment. Just when one issue is resolved, another seems to arise. Each one really tests your skills. Sometimes the most difficult skill is communication. For example, there are certain issues we don’t push as hard for whatever reason, and we have to explain that to members. You have to let them know that while you are hearing them, going forth with this issue could do more harm than good. And sometimes that's hard to get across to them. But, in all, I really enjoy just working with our members.
Q: What's the most rewarding part of being facility representative? What's the most challenging?
A: Let's start with the most challenging. The most challenging again is communication. Letting them know you have their best interest in mind and at heart. The most rewarding is just seeing the members get involved and just doing well. We really try to get everyone at DCA involved as much as we can. I'll go up to our members and sell some positions to them face-to-face. It builds up a lot of character and experience if they do accept. And when I see them accept those responsibilities, that's the most rewarding.
Q: Being a facility representative, how do you get your members involved?
A: Every week I send out a weekly email to all our members keeping them posted on what to expect, what we're doing, etc. I don't want them to be caught off guard. So if and when something is affected, they'll know it. That email also serves as their official bulletin. If they're interested in a specific workgroup or opportunity, I ask through the email to let me know. But further down the line, I'll approach them personally. Again, I think it helps to build up their confidence, at least I believe, when Terry or I come directly to our members telling them they should get involved in something. From what I've learned just in the short term of being FacRep, if they're asked, you give them the will to just do it. And just let them run with it.
Q: Do you have any hobbies or any other activities you enjoy outside of NATCA?
A: I love video games on my Xbox and Play Station 3. I love aquariums, and I have salt and fresh water aquariums at home. And I absolutely love hanging out with my family and friends.
Q: Has there been a favorite moment for you while at NATCA?
A: Of course there are so many, but what sticks out the most is the convention in Denver, as it was my first one. It was one of the best events in my life. It was so orderly, very much an air traffic control environment. You learn so much information and the amount of experience surrounding you is incredible from old to new generations. It reminds me of the saying, "The more things change the more things stay the same." Even though there's some generational gap, everyone has the Union in mind and at heart. As a newer generation controller, it's great to see how we got to where we are.
Q: Do you have any advice/tips/messages for members who would like to get involved?
A: I would definitely stay current on your information. Utilize your resources from the website to your mentors. Reach out to your FacReps, vice presidents, regional reps; reach all the way to the top of the food chain. You learn immediately talking with Paul, Trish, Phil Barbarello and Dean Iacopelli that they are open to helping you no matter the time. They're totally approachable! It's still sometimes surreal to talk to them because of all their accomplishments, but they're regular people and they care deeply about our Union. So, use all your resources. As a FacRep, I say reach out to your members and get them involved. Don’t wait for them to come to you. You go to them!