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Thompson and Ingrao

NATCA Commits to Boots on the Ground

Boots on the Ground allows mostly retired NATCA members to participate in the labor-to-labor outreach and education program of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations). NATCA “Boots” members and other union members reach out to fellow labor members to educate them about candidates in upcoming elections. This program has been effective at getting the word out to the labor community regarding candidates’ records and positions.

“NATCA’s Boots on the Ground program started in 2008,” explains Tom Thompson, who will be managing the program for NATCA. “Mike Ingrao,” who held the position for the past eight years, “played an enormous role at the inception of the program.”

Thompson and Ingrao
Tom Thompson (left) and Mike Ingrao at the opening reception for NATCA in Washington.

Ingrao presented the concept to NATCA’s leadership initially, later refining it to meet the needs of NATCA and the broader labor movement. Ingrao’s tireless efforts for NATCA continued every election cycle from 2008 to 2016. “It will be my role to continue Mike’s effort as he retires from his position,” says Thompson.

During each cycle, it is the program manager’s job to develop and implement a comprehensive grassroots NATCA program in states designated by NATCA within the AFL-CIO’s labor program, focused on the Presidential election and targeted U.S. Senate races.

Tom Thompson
Part of the Boots on the Ground program involves educating Congress about air safety professionals at meetings like this. Pictured from left to right: Tom Thompson (retired Indianapolis Center), Penny Lloyd (retired Cleveland ATCT), Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Craig Smith (retired Indianapolis Center).

The job was a natural fit for Ingrao, who served as Secretary-Treasurer for the Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO. The Washington, D.C.-based labor organization represents several million workers in the private and public sectors of the aviation and other transit industries. After retiring from the position in 2008, Ingrao continued to serve TTD, NATCA, and other transportation unions, consulting on political and legislative matters.

Thompson initially became interested in the program when the Indianapolis Center (ZID) local became one of the first to be dues paying members of both their state and local AFL-CIO. “During the ‘White Book’ timeframe, the Indiana AFL-CIO was extremely active and assisted us greatly with our legislative efforts, including numerous email campaigns within the state,” Thompson explains.

Subsequently, Thompson became more involved within NATCA, serving as Vice President and then FacRep at ZID. He is also a founding member of NATCA’s Reloaded Committee, has served as the Great Lakes Legislative Rep and Indiana State Coordinator, has attended many NATCA in Washington lobby weeks where he was honored with a legislative activism award in 2011, is a member of NATCA’s Historical Committee, and now proudly assumes the role of NATCA’s Boots on the Ground Program Manager. He is excited to carry on NATCA’s strong legacy of legislative activism and help others get more involved.

“Direct involvement in the Boots program is primarily done after retirement,” explains Thompson. “However, as an active member, it is enormously important to support NATCA’s legislative efforts via all means possible.”

Thompson encourages everyone to get involved, attend NATCA in Washington, and take action when asked to speak with your members of Congress. “The efforts you make today can make a difference that impacts not only current working conditions, but your retirement conditions as well,” Thompson says.

“The Retired NATCA Active Volunteers (RNAV) that apply for the Boots program every cycle may have retired from work, but the time, desire and passion to ensure NATCA’s legislative goals are met, never retires,” continues Thompson. “In fact, for many, it often increases.”

For more information on the Boots on the Ground program, contact Tom Thompson at thomas.thompson@natca.net.