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America's Air Traffic Controllers Enthusiastically Support Sen. Barack Obama for President - (6/5/2008)

CONTACT:  Doug Church, 301-346-8245 

WASHINGTON – The National Air Traffic Controllers Association today is giving its endorsement for president to Senator Barack Obama, a champion of fair collective bargaining rights for controllers, a fierce advocate for aviation safety and holding the Federal Aviation Administration accountable, and a courageous, inspiring and devoted leader for working men and women nationwide.           

“This has been a historic battle for the Democratic nomination and we feel extremely proud and excited to throw our complete support behind Senator Obama as we look ahead to the most important presidential election in the history of this nation’s aviation system and the most important for the air traffic controllers,” NATCA President Patrick Forrey said. 

“This is a workforce in crisis due to the failed management of the FAA, the agency’s imposed work and pay rules and its unconscionable actions to demoralize its employees who have given the agency the ability to call our system the world’s safest,” Forrey added. “We need a president who will once again demand accountability and fairness in the FAA, restore collaboration with controllers and recognize that a strong, fully-staffed and respected controller workforce is essential in ensuring the safety of the traveling public. Senator Obama will be that president.”            

Two years ago, Senator Obama introduced the “FAA Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006” in an effort to halt what ended up being a relentless march by the FAA to destroy the collective bargaining process. 

Obama’s bill sought to replace the FAA Administrator’s arbitrary authority with neutral binding arbitration in the case of an impasse in labor-management negotiations, something NATCA still seeks in 2008. Said Obama at the time: “I recognize that negotiations between the (FAA) Administrator and the air traffic controllers are difficult. However, it is in the best interest of the agency and public safety to have management and labor cooperate in contract negotiations and if that is impossible, then no one side should be able to impose its views on the other. Only neutral arbitration can produce a fair outcome that the entire organization can accept.” 

Even in 2006, Obama knew that if the FAA imposed work and pay rules on controllers, the consequences would be dire, saying it would “lead to an erosion of talent at the agency with vital, retirement-eligible air traffic controllers interpreting such agency action as an invitation to retire,” and “will make recruiting needed replacement employees that much more difficult.”

He was right on both counts.

Controllers have repeatedly warned the public about a worsening staffing shortage and the effects of fatigue caused by fewer controllers working longer shifts, a direct result of the FAA’s labor actions that has driven the ranks of fully certified controllers down to their lowest levels since 1992.

A total of 2,687 controllers and trainees have left their jobs – through retirement, resignations, transfers to other FAA jobs and other reasons – from Sept. 3, 2006 (the day the FAA imposed work and pay rules) through March 31, 2008. That’s nearly 20 percent of the workforce. And only 153 of the more than 1,800 new hires the FAA made in FY07 have become fully certified controllers.

To read the full text of Senator Obama’s Jan. 26, 2006 statement of introduction of the “FAA Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006,” please click here.

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