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May 27, 2016 // Rinaldi Honored With Prestigious 2016 Humanitarian Award From Sons of Italy Foundation

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At an extraordinary event on May 26 that celebrated the intersection of heritage, family, community service, career, and service to the Union and others, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi received the prestigious 2016 Humanitarian Award from the Sons of Italy Foundation (SIF) at its National Education & Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala in Washington, D.C. The SIF is the philanthropic arm of the Order Sons of Italy, the nation’s largest and oldest organization for people of Italian heritage.

“It’s humbling,” Rinaldi said. “The Sons of Italy have been a large part of our lives. My first communion was at the Sons of Italy hall in Oceanside (New York). It really is a tremendous honor.”

Rinaldi received support at the event from many NATCA brothers and sisters, including Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, the rest of the National Executive Board (NEB), the 2016 Contract Team, Canadian Air Traffic Control Association President Peter Duffey, and several members of the National Office staff. Also attending were Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Organization Chief Operating Officer Teri Bristol and former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

Before Rinaldi accepted his award and spoke, a special video introduced the audience to Rinaldi and the story of his life, family, and career. The video included tributes from Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo, and former House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jerry Costello, former NATCA Eastern Region RVP Phil Barbarello, NATCA Eastern Region RVP Dean Iacopelli, Babbitt, Gilbert, Rinaldi’s wife Debra, daughter Olivia, and sons Anthony and Nicholas.

“For NATCA’s president to be recognized with such a distinguished award is a testament to his dedication to the great men and women he represents,” Gilbert said. “The award also confirms the significant respect and appreciation that NATCA has garnered and the workforce deserves.”

Contract Team
NATCA’s 2016 Contract Team pictured with Rinaldi (front center left) and Gilbert (front center right).

Award-winning actor Joe Mantegna served as the master of ceremonies and his National Memorial Day Concert co-host, award-winning actor Gary Sinise, attended and spoke. Approximately 1,000 guests attended, including many members of Rinaldi’s family. At the end of the introductory video, Olivia Rinaldi spoke with her mother and brothers next to her:

“We love you dad, and are very proud of you for receiving this award,” she said. “Continue to do the great things that you’re doing and know that we’ll always be behind you.”

Rinaldi is a native of Island Park, N.Y., where his father settled after emigrating in 1958 from Pontelandolfo, a small mountain town in the Campania region of Italy. His grandfather, Domenico, had previously worked for eight years in Venezuela before settling in New York and earning enough to bring the rest of his family over.

Paul 3“We were raised as proud Americans, but because we were first generation Americans, it was with very strong roots to our ancestors’ culture from Europe,” Rinaldi said. “Because of how hard the family needed to work to get to this country and succeed, the mantra in our house was always this: Each next generation must work hard to be better than the previous.”

The philanthropic arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the SIF has contributed $164 million to education, medical research, disaster relief, cultural preservation, and other special projects, with $61 million of it given in scholarships. NELA Gala proceeds help fund these philanthropic programs.

Rinaldi was part of a group of very distinguished honorees, which included:

— Condoleezza Rice, who was honored with the 2016 SIF Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service for her distinguished career in education administration and international relations, chiefly as 66th U.S. Secretary of State – the first African American woman in that position – and for service during two presidential administrations.

— Nick Calio, who received the 2016 SIF Award for Excellence in Business. Calio is president and CEO of Airlines for America (A4A), the trade association for the country’s leading passenger and cargo airlines, whose members and affiliates transport more than 90 percent of all U.S. airline passenger and cargo traffic.

— Joseph M. Mattone, Sr., and Mary Ann Pessolano Mattone, RN/MPH, who were co-recipients of the 2016 SIF National Education & Leadership Award (NELA). Joseph Mattone is chairman and CEO of The Mattone Group, a development, construction and property management company in Queens, N.Y.

Rinaldi, in accepting his award, expressed how much he was honored and humbled. He congratulated the SIF scholarship recipients and his fellow honorees.

“I thank the Sons of Italy Foundation for recognizing labor leaders as humanitarians,” Rinaldi said. “Labor leaders stand up for fairness, quality of work, and equal pay for everyone. We stand for elevating the working class and making the American dream become a reality. And I am living proof of that.”

Paul 5Rinaldi noted the breaking news this week that NATCA and the FAA have reached a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) covering the air traffic control specialists assigned to the terminal and en route options, traffic management coordinators/specialists, air traffic controllers assigned to the flight service option, and Notice to Airmen specialists (NOTAMS). He thanked NATCA’s contract team.

“You did an amazing job of continuing the build the path of collaboration, and ensuring the safety of our nation’s skies with no disruption whatsoever,” he said. “I can’t thank you enough.”

He then thanked the NEB. “I’m in awe of their strength and their courage to stand up for safety and collaboration, and to build the best aviation system for this country moving forward,” he said.

Rinaldi extended a special thank you to Gilbert for her tireless devotion to NATCA and the safety of the National Airspace System.

“She pushes me and all NATCA members beyond our comfort zones,” he said. “But we know we’re on the road from good to great and she makes every single one of us better and we’re lucky to have her.”

Noting the incredible safety record of the NAS, Rinaldi said he is very lucky to be the President of NATCA, telling the audience, “All I do is stand on the shoulders of giants.”

“Our skies are the most complex, most diverse, and safest system in the world,” Rinaldi said. “And really, passengers don’t even give us a second thought day in and day out as they travel throughout the system. That’s exactly how we want it. Our members are the silent guardians of the skies.

“Commercial aviation has never been safer. The professionals I represent have to be perfect 100 percent of the time to honor our commitment and our public oath to aviation stakeholders and the flying public, every minute of every hour of every day. I am so proud to be the president of these professionals.”

Rinaldi talked about the great work of the NATCA Charitable Foundation in helping so many in need across the country, with efforts such as adopting families during holiday time and providing gifts, food, and clothing; helping children in the inner cities with school supplies; providing resources for local food banks and feeding those who are hungry, and providing assistance to military veterans programs.

“These are just a few things that the NATCA Charitable Foundation does and we do it with a very low overhead cost; 95 cents of every dollar donated goes to the charity’s efforts,” Rinaldi said. “It’s a team of volunteers.”

In addition, Rinaldi noted, NATCA has a disaster relief fund to help those around the world in the aftermath of devastation. Recently, he said, NATCA used the fund to send aid to our brothers and sisters in the Alberta Province of Canada affected by devastating wildfires.

“NATCA is a union but more importantly, we are a family,” Rinaldi said, “and I am the luckiest man in the world to stand with these giants.”

For more information about the NELA Gala and this year’s award winners.

A press release about the event, from the Order Sons of Italy in America.

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