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Member Focus: Scot Morrison // October 26, 2011

Scot Morrison, Central Region ARVP

“NATCA for me… it means solidarity,” said Scot Morrison, Lincoln Tower (LNK) Facility Representative and Central Region ARVP. “It’s the workers joining together for the common causes that we have.”

Morrison has been a controller since 1982, a NATCA member since 1988, facility representative for 17 of his 20 years at LNK, ARVP since spring of 1998, Central Region labor relations lead, member of the former and currently reforming National Validation Team, arbitration advocate, selected as a member of the 2003 and 2009 contract teams, a NATCA Academy instructor and part creator/writer of the basic facility representative class, which begs the question: is there anything Morrison doesn’t do for NATCA?

Starting his career in flight service at Grand Island Tower, Neb., which was still an FAA tower at the time, Morrison joined NATCA in 1988 and was promoted to LNK in 1990. Elected LNK facility representative in the summer of 1991, he has held the position ever since, with the exception of a small stint from 2002 to 2004 when a few projects required the majority of his attention outside his facility.

According to Morrison, during the early years of NATCA the atmosphere at LNK wasn’t as tense as it was at larger facilities; the issue at the forefront of most LNK members’ minds was figuring out what they were “getting into” by joining the union, what it meant to them, and in what direction to take it. When Morrison took over as facility representative, he realized that he didn’t fully understand the position and in order to do so he would have to learn through experience.

And he did.

One of the first and biggest issues Morrison encountered was nepotism-related. A controller was married to a supervisor and management wanted to put that supervisor in charge of the facility in management’s absence. Morrison knew that decision would violate federal regulations and said so. When “word got out,” the controllers that were friends with the married couple weren’t pleased with Morrison. They thought he was personally attacking the couple, but Morrison explained he was simply defending the regulations. And although the issue eventually blew over, it temporarily divided the facility and caused Morrison to seek advice from his RVP.

Said Morrison, “I was making a decision that involved me just picking up something and reading and say, ‘this is what I think it means’ and deal with the consequences, but I went out and got confirmation from the RVP that I was right.”

Morrison quickly learned that being a facility representative meant self-educating and standing firmly behind a decision.

“Back then, for me, I just had to not be afraid to roll up my sleeves and get to work on something and hope I was going down the right road,” he said. “Once I got to that point, I learned early on that you just have to make decisions and go with them. Sometimes they may not always be the right decisions, but if I’ve done all my homework and know what the issues are then I at least can defend the road I went down.”

Not being afraid to roll up his sleeves was key in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Central Region facility representatives realized the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was treating their region’s controllers more punitively than anywhere else. The FAA fired a controller for having three operational errors and deviations in a two-year period. The facility representatives learned at the controller’s arbitration that this action was unheard of at most other facilities. When Morrison attended quarterly meetings and tried to resolve grievances at the local level he also found that the FAA regional managers were implementing protocols that hadn’t been officially agreed upon.

“Basically the FAA wanted to regain what they thought was control they had lost in the workforce and they wanted to dictate workforce conditions more in the Central Region,” said Morrison.

He recalled another issue, around the same time, that produced an undiscovered benefit to NATCA members in his region. A facility representative and FAA regional manager were “basically at war,” so all of the other Central Region facility representatives made it clear to FAA regional management that if one of the facility members weren’t happy, none of them were.

Those issues have since been resolved and the cooperative atmosphere between the FAA and NATCA Central Region has never been better. In fact, the gratifying experiences of Morrison’s time in NATCA far outweigh the tough ones.

For Morrison, the best parts of being a NATCA member have been telling a fellow member he resolved a grievance or issue in their favor and passing on the knowledge he’s gained during his 23-year membership. “I enjoy training the new people and teaching them what it is I’m doing because hopefully they will be the ones to take over the facility or have an even bigger role,” he said.

For young members looking to “take over” their facility or serve NATCA, Morrison’s advice is simple: don’t be afraid. He said that young members should find something they enjoy working on, learn more about it and once they know the issue, they shouldn’t be afraid to make decisions and voice their opinion when the opportunity arises.

“The big thing is to just find something to help your facility and your members and work on their behalves… don’t be afraid to step up and say what you think if it’s in the best interest of NATCA,” he said.

Soon it will be time for another member at LNK to step up in Morrison’s place. The facility representative seat is up for election in the summer of 2012 and he plans to encourage someone else to run.

Morrison’s mandatory retirement is in 2016, but he plans to leave in 2015 so he can walk away from the job, not be “forced out.”

As for retirement, Morrison doesn’t have any specific plans besides picking up his granddaughters from school each day and staying involved with NATCA.

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