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December 21, 2012 // Facility Spotlight: Region X Great Lakes Regional Office, Des Plaines, Ill.

Solidarity runs strong in the blood of the NATCA members at this Region X facility.

The Region X Great Lakes Regional Office (RO), located in a suburb northwest of downtown Chicago, has approximately 115 members. Most of the NATCA members are engineers, but there are also some members in the professions of Aircraft Certification, Regions and Centers (Information Technology and Logistics), Legal, and Airports. The engineers are at about 75 percent membership, while the membership of other professions is still growing.

“Our goal as a local is to help non-members see what NATCA can accomplish and how not being involved only hurts our capabilities,” said NATCA Region X Engineers Great Lakes (EGL) President Troy Swanberg.

While membership is growing, so is the strength of the NATCA local at this facility. They weren’t always as strong as they currently are, especially when a potential move about a decade ago threatened the RO and its unity.

Swanberg explained that under the Engineering Services Efficiency Plan (ESEP) in Chicago in the early to mid-2000s, the Engineering Services (ES) employees, who were the majority of the bargaining unit at that time, were slated to be moved to Fort Worth, Texas.

“The move would have been detrimental to the employees,” said Swanberg.

Through the efforts of NATCA and its many activists throughout the country, the ES employees were able to keep their jobs in all non-service area office regional locations. However for 10 years, the facility was lifeless because there were position losses through attrition, with no hope of change. Once again, through NATCA’s efforts, the ES employees worked collaboratively with the FAA and, over the past two years, established the Engineering Services Strategic Plan (ESSP). Through that plan, the FAA and NATCA have agreed that positions should be located in the same place as the work. For the past two years, EGL has been hiring engineers in the Great Lakes RO.

“New young engineers with new ideas and new energy have brought a new life into our facility,” said Swanberg.

Swanberg said that the Region X Great Lakes employees’ relationship with their managers has always been good. The problem was due to upper level management not allowing front line managers to work with NATCA at the local level to do what was right for the employees and for the FAA.

“The FAA collaborating with NATCA at the highest levels has started to filter down to mid-level managers, and we have been able to accomplish some really good things,” said Swanberg. “Our hope is that continued collaboration support will have everyone active and engaged again in the growth and prosperity of the FAA in Great Lakes.”

The biggest group at the RO is ES Engineers, with about 80 percent of the membership stationed there. They develop and engineer packages for the new establishment and upgrading of existing FAA facilities. The other 20 percent of the engineers interact with air traffic control (ATC) and ATC facilities, and integrate into the live National Airspace System (NAS) the systems the ES engineers develop.

The RO is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CST), however the Field Engineers will work any hours to minimize impact to the NAS during cutovers and integrations of facilities and systems.

Swanberg said a unique thing about working at the Region X Great Lakes RO is that they have a midwestern view of life; family is important, and the employees work well with their managers.

“Our first level managers, for the most part, work very well as a team with us,” he said.

Swanberg is proud to be the NATCA President at the Region X Great Lakes RO and said he feels the best part of leading the group is being able to help correct injustices to the members, an ability he has in part due to NATCA’s strength and support. He said that the NATCA atmosphere at RO runs strong, and the members have fun together and work well as a team.

“As engineers we have each others’ backs, and we are a true team,” said Swanberg.

To keep NATCAvism and solidarity strong, the NATCA membership at the RO has ‘Wear NATCA Black’ on Wednesdays and they also hold some softball games and bowling challenges to reenergize the membership. Swanberg said the location of the RO offers ‘anything you want to do’ in your free time, from big city outings to small town get-togethers.

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