Member Focus: Chris Perdue
Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chris Perdue and his son Christopher (L) and daughter Rory (R)

Air traffic control career: Joined the Army in January 2000 as an air traffic controller for four years bouncing back and forth between Ft. Rucker, Ala., and South Korea. After the Army, went to work for Serco at a contract tower in Bethel, Alaska (East Siberia), for two years before transferring to Ogden, Utah, for one year. Hired by the FAA to work at Nashville Metropolitan (BNA) in 2007, where he currently works.

Born and raised, other places of living: Born and raised in Garden City, Mich. For the past 15 years, he has lived in various areas such as Alabama, South Korea, Maryland, Alaska, Utah, and for the past six years, Tennessee.

Family: Wife Britt, and two great kids, a five-year-old daughter, Rory, and a two-year-old son, Christopher.

Q: How did you become a NATCA member?

A: My first day at BNA, the FacRep, Mike Rogers, walked into the training office and started into this spiel about why I should join NATCA. I think I let him get through about two sentences before I told him to just give me the sign up forms. I was well aware of NATCA before being hired by the FAA, and there was never a doubt in my mind about joining.

Q: How did you get involved, and what are you involved in with NATCA?

A: Nashville was kind of a weird place when the first of us new hires got there. The controllers had all been here a long time, it had been years since they had gotten anyone new, and even the ones they had weren’t young hires. The vast majority of them were retirement eligible before we even started showing up. It was very early in my time at BNA that Rodney Turner, who is the current FacRep, started telling us we needed to get involved right away. As time went by, he started focusing his efforts more on just a few of us, and eventually he just began what he called training me “in the ways of the NATCA Ninja.” I am now the vice president at BNA and a member of the National Constitution Committee. I grew up in a union family, it was always my intention to get involved, but the level of my involvement so early in my career is definitely because of Rodney. I wish every young member looking to get involved had someone like him to bring them along.

Q: Tell us about your union family members.

A: My great grandpa Clyde Brown was a union member working for Ford and my grandpa Clifford Brown was a union member at several places and a strong proponent of unions throughout my life. My dad Rick Starr was a longtime member of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and my brother Rickey Starr is currently a member Anchorage Center (ZAN) and has served as a FacRep in the past.

Q: What made you decide to take on leadership roles within NATCA?

A: I felt like I had the ability to do some good by being involved. I was hired during the White Book years, and the management team that was in place at the time at BNA was just terrible. Every day it seemed like something that shouldn’t be happening was happening. To sit on the side and just watch people suffer through that was never really going to be an option for me.

Q: What is the Constitution Committee? As a member of the committee, what do you do?

A: The Constitution Committee serves to protect the integrity of NATCA’s Bylaws. We make interpretations of the National Constitution when necessary. We spend a pretty fair amount of time helping Locals when they have questions on their own constitutions and bylaws, if they are in line with the National Constitution, and procedures for amending them. We also serve as the Rules Committee at the Conventions and process the proposed amendments to be put before the convention body.

Q: What's the most rewarding part of being facility vice president? What's the most challenging?

A: Helping people is by far the most rewarding part of being involved in NATCA. Even things that may seem like small issues to me may really be a big deal to someone else, so it’s nice when we’re able to create positive change. I would say the most challenging thing has been learning to be patient. Just because something makes sense to me and seems simple doesn’t always mean it is to management. I can’t always get the change I want right away, but more often than not, if I keep at it and show some restraint, it works out.

Q: What would you say to members thinking about running for facility vice-president in future elections?

A: Learn and get involved in anything you can now. Being a facility representative involves a little bit of everything, and being a vice president means you are helping the FacRep carry out his responsibilities to the Local. You never really know what is going to come up, so anything you can learn ahead of time is great. NATCA provides so many great classes, every one of them taught by people with tremendous experience with what they’re teaching, you can’t go wrong with any of these. Go to NATCA in Washington; try to go to a regional FacRep meeting with your reps, or the convention if your Local can afford to send you. All of these things are great learning experiences.

Q: Do you have any hobbies or any other activities you enjoy outside of NATCA?

A: Sports, doesn’t really matter which. I grew up in Michigan so I’m still a huge fan of all the teams up there, except Michigan State.

Q: Has there been a favorite moment for you while at NATCA?

A: The day the Red Book was signed. I took this job knowing that day would come sooner or later, but the White Book was tough to swallow. The way NATCA fought for everyone, but especially for those of us who were hired in during that time, is not something I will forget.

Q: Do you have any advice/tips/messages for members who would like to get involved?

A: Find a mentor. There is no substitute for learning from people who have done it before you. In this world of collaboration there is so much work to be done, so volunteering and finding someone to teach you how to do whatever it is you are interested in doing shouldn’t be too difficult. If you can’t find this at the local level then check out NATCA Reloaded. I think it’s also important to figure out what it is you are interested in doing. Volunteer to go to anything you can, and see if it’s something you enjoy. Ask your FacRep about going to classes. There are so many ways to start—you just have to be willing to put yourself out there.