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Trish Gilbert Full Bio

Gilbert’s Path to Leadership

Gilbert’s activism within NATCA began in 1992, with the Quality Through Partnership (QTP) program. Two years later, she began the first of three terms as Houston Center’s Facility Representative. In 2001, Gilbert became Southwest Region Chair of the National Legislative Committee (NLC). In 2005 she earned the position of National Legislative Committee Chair, which she held until becoming NATCA’s EVP. In addition, Gilbert chaired the National Organizing Committee from 1996-1999. She also served as Vice President of the NATCA Charitable Foundation (NCF) from 1998-2000, and then led the Foundation as its President from 2001-2008.

Leading the Union

Gilbert is dedicated to the platform on which she and Rinaldi ran for office, committing every day to the NATCA membership, striving to make every NATCA member’s quality of life better, securing NATCA’s voice in improving the quality of the service its members provide and making NATCA stronger and more united than ever before. Above all, she and Rinaldi believe in honesty, integrity, open communication, dedication, solidarity, tenacity, unity, leading by example, and loyalty.

Gilbert has worked with top administration and agency officials who have committed to restoring a productive working environment with its employees and recognize that a strong, respected and fully staffed workforce is essential to ensuring the safety of the system. Gilbert has led the union’s effort to emphasize professional standards and impart the message to the union membership that in order to advance safety, NATCA must not only identify problems but must also help craft solutions. Thus, current efforts include the design, construction and deployment of new technology and equipment, the redesign of airspace, and an expansion of safety reporting systems that have been very successful in bringing safety issues to the forefront.

In all her roles within the union, Gilbert has been fiercely dedicated to aviation safety, working to ensure that the air traffic control profession and the National Airspace System (NAS) are held in the highest regard and function with the greatest integrity. She believes communication and collaboration are the keys to improving aviation safety professionals’ workplaces and being a part of the move to a true safety culture in the FAA.

“We continue to sit on a growing number of safety risk management panels, from the national level to the local level,” says Gilbert. “Early, pre-decisional involvement is key to pushing system improvements forward.”


Gilbert has led the union to success by battling many attacks on federal employees and collective bargaining rights because she continually advocates for union members to stand together, knowing the collective spirit is a much stronger force than the individual.

Gilbert has a keen sense of the membership’s collective attitude and direction, and knows how to motivate them when morale is low, and keep them from fracturing from within.

“A union is all about its membership,” says Gilbert. “Our strength will always be in our numbers and our united commitment to our cause. Always remember, we can achieve so much more as a collective than we ever could as individuals.”

And like Rinaldi, Gilbert always reminds NATCA members about previous battles and the past sacrifices air traffic controllers have had to make so those in future generations could thrive and have a stronger union and workforce.

“We must never forget the lessons learned from our past and from the struggles of our sisters and brothers in the labor movement who came before us,” she says. “We must keep these lessons firmly in mind and apply what we’ve learned to current events. “

Legislative Affairs

A fierce legislative voice and activist for NATCA, Gilbert has led the union through many legislative battles, including the fight to fix Title 49, securing an FAA Reauthorization Bill, pay re-classification, union official time, and more. She’s testified in front of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation about the need to improve aging FAA facilities and working conditions, improvements to the federal contract tower program, and air traffic modernization and staffing reductions. She’s also represented NATCA in front of the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, testifying about aviation safety.

“Seeing the FAA bill signed into law, with our Title 49 fix intact, represents one of the great highlights of my NATCA career,” said Gilbert. “Every day of that battle strengthened my deep commitment to our union and steeled my resolve to ensure our members are well represented, and that our union continues to succeed and grow.”

She also helps lead NATCA’s in its efforts in developing the next generation of NATCA’s legislative leaders. As a long-time government employee, Gilbert recognizes the need for strong grassroots activism to build the relationships that are essential to having NATCA’s voice heard.

Media and Public Affairs

Gilbert has been a resounding voice for NATCA in the media. She’s represented NATCA on every medium, from print to radio to TV, speaking about many issues of importance to the union and advocating its position; issues include, the negative effects of sequestration on the aviation system, air traffic control workforce staffing, and the federal government shutdown. Her most notable media appearances include CNN, CNBC’s The Squawk Box, CBS Evening News, the Ed Schultz Radio Show, NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show, and The Washington Post.

Gilbert also represents NATCA members at events throughout the national and international aviation communities, including the RTCA Annual Symposium, the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) conferences, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Air Traffic Services and Civil Aviation meetings, and the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA) Annual and Americas meetings. Gilbert served for two years on IFATCA’s Constitution and Administration Committee (CAC) and currently serves on IFATCA’s Finance Committee (FIC). She also represents NATCA at many labor industry events, including the AFL-CIO convention, the Department Of Transportations’ Future of Aviation Advisory Summit (2010) and a Workforce Development Panel (2012), the White House Labor and Management Partnership Summit, RTCA annual aviation symposium, ATCA annual aviation conference, and the Association of Labor Relations Agencies (ALRA) Advocates Day.

The NATCA Difference
Although membership is voluntary, NATCA has the highest percentage of representation of any federal employee union.

“Whatever your place in this union, you are NATCA,” says Gilbert. “You are part of a family, a brotherhood and sisterhood, committed to something real, committed to each other as we, together, advance the status, professionalism and working conditions of our membership.”

NATCA strives to enhance the overall union membership experience by offering a collective voice in aviation safety to enrich members’ professional careers and personal lives. Gilbert knows that no other union provides the kind of support that NATCA does, and that’s “The NATCA Difference.”

Learn more about the difference NATCA can make for you.

NATCA Reloaded

Gilbert did not have her sights set on becoming the Executive Vice President of NATCA. But like Rinaldi, Gilbert was passionate about her profession and making it better, so she got involved with the Union in any way she could to make those changes.

Gilbert and Rinaldi expanded and strengthened the NATCA Reloaded program because they know from experience the importance of understanding why the Union exists and is important, and why being active within the Union is so critical. Gilbert also understands there is a different path for everyone within NATCA. Exposure to different events, positions, and programs is the only way to make sure every member finds a particular issue they are passionate about and to which they will become dedicated and involved.

Gilbert actually lost her first election when she ran for Area Representative at Houston Center. She credits her dedication and never-give-up mindset for staying on course and not letting that loss deter her from being a NATCAvist.

“You can never give up,” she said. “If you truly believe and work as this union does, you can’t give up just because someone doesn’t vote you in at that particular time or because you don’t get picked for a particular committee or project.”

Learn more about NATCA Reloaded.

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