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NATCA30 Spotlight

The Origin of Lobby Weeks

1994: NATCA’s second annual Lobby Week
Background: Following up on the success of NATCA’s first Lobby Week, more than 250 participants again attended the event the week of Sept. 26, 1994. They dedicate their efforts to continue carrying NATCA’s voice to Capitol Hill, which helped begin developing relationships with members of Congress and laid the groundwork for the rest of the 1990s.

Notable Issues: Concern over aging technology spilled over into the 1990s. Problems plagued centers and towers across the country when power outages, computer failures, and other equipment problems caused air traffic disruptions and compromised passenger safety. The Air Transportation Association estimated that such delays cost $3.5 billion in wasted fuel, passenger time, and under-used aircraft.

In response, Congress would attempt — and succeed — in passing major FAA reform legislation, which would go into effect in 1996.

1995: NATCA’s third annual Lobby Week
Background: By 1995, more than 400 participants attended the Lobby Week to spread NATCA’s message during the week of March 6, 1995.

Notable Issues: In mid-November 1995, Congress passed an annual appropriations act for the FAA that required the Agency to implement a new personnel management system and procurement process by April 1, 1996. Congress exempted the FAA from a majority of provisions contained in Title 5 of the United States Code with this act. While it allowed the FAA to legally negotiate pay, some of the provisions that were removed included the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, Chapter 71 of Title 5, which is a crucial section that grants federal workers the right to union representation and collective bargaining.

To expand its lobbying efforts, NATCA joined forces with two other federal unions, the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists and the Professional Airways System Specialists (now called the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists — PASS), to form the Aviation Labor Coalition. NATCA also turned to the AFL-CIO for help. The result of these efforts would not be seen until the following year.

1996: NATCA’s “Mini Lobby Week”
Background: Twenty-four participants attended a mini-version of NATCA’s annual event during the week of May 1, 1996.

Notable Issues: NATCA’s grassroots legislative activism helped save the Union during NATCA’s battle to regain key rights taken away in the 1995 appropriations act.

NATCA fought this battle on two fronts. First, NATCA fought to include language to restore workers’ rights in a continuing resolution (which was the only way to get legislation enacted in time to save the union). And, second, NATCA fought to replace the “in consultation” language with the stronger “shall negotiate” language.

In March 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the continuing resolution bill that would conclude NATCA’s efforts that began in the early 90s. The continuing resolution provided aid to Bosnia, Midwest flood relief, and restored the application of Chapter 71 for FAA employees, including air traffic controllers, ensuring NATCA would continue to exist as a union.

1997: NATCA’s fifth annual Lobby Week; renamed “NATCA in Washington”
Background: During the week of April 20, 1997, activists gathered for the annual lobbying event that had evolved into a lobbying and training opportunity as well as a high-profile political event. The name of the event, Lobby Week, was officially changed to NATCA in Washington. This name change was accompanied by a push to incorporate more training and long-term relationship development with members of Congress. NATCA’s legislative efforts had become a year-round grassroots initiative. Although 1997 was NATCA’s first “no-issue” NATCA in Washington, the activists focused on what NATCA could do to motivate its membership to become more involved.

Notable Issues: That year, NATCA hosted the Chairman of the National Civil Aviation Review Commission, Norman Y. Mineta, who recommended restructuring the FAA into a government-run, performance-based organization, which would later become what we know today as the Air Traffic Organization (ATO), founded in 2003.

1998: NATCA’s sixth annual NATCA in Washington
Background: More than 250 participants attended NATCA in Washington during the week of Feb. 22, 1998.

Notable Issues: Much of the fight in 1998 and 1999 revolved around the battle over what later became the FAA’s Federal Contract Tower program.

1999: NATCA’s seventh annual “NATCA in Washington”
Background: Nearly 300 participants came together to bring NATCA’s voice to Capitol Hill during the week of May 10, 1999.

Notable Issues: The battles that were waged in the late-90s continued to galvanize NATCA’s legislative efforts. Today, NiW is a constant for our member activists who are committed to legislative activism as a year-round priority.