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NATCA30 Spotlight

A Look Back at 30 Years of Conventions

88 Delegate Badge
Retired member Mike Palumbo’s delegate badge from the 1988 Atlanta Convention. Palumbo is the only NATCA member who has attended every convention in NATCA’s history.

1988: Atlanta: NATCA’s Second Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Getting Down to Business”
  • Celebrated as a turning point for air safety
  • Issues:
    • Establish Constitution, Finance, and Safety Committees and their structures
    • Defined “Active Member” as a controller who has been certified in the preceding two years or a developmental in a training program
    • Limited the right to vote or hold office to “Active Members” only

1990: Las Vegas: NATCA’s Third Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Together in Unity”
  • Issues:
    • Dues increase
    • Initiation fee
    • Establish that elections are to be held at the same time every year
    • Establish that the National Executive Board (NEB) is responsible for creating NATCA policy
    • Membership to be granted to Department of Defense controllers
    • Beginning of NATCA Fiscal year changed to January 1
    • Strengthening operations of the Union
  • Convention body agreed to ask President George H. W. Bush to allow fired PATCO controllers to reapply for new positions in the FAA

1992: San Antonio: NATCA’s Fourth Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Pride — Purpose — Unity”
  • Issues:
    • Unlimited terms for national and local officers
    • Increased dues for members
    • Changed minimum dues rebate to $112.50
    • Changed the title of “Regional Representatives” to “Regional Vice Presidents”
    • Expanded approval process for annual budget
    • Created a pay schedule for national officers

1994: Tampa: NATCA’s Fifth Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Solidarity and Brotherhood/Sisterhood”
  • Issues:
    • President Bill Clinton’s administration’s plan to restructure the air traffic control functions of the FAA into a quasi-government corporation
    • Direct Priority Placement (DPP) agreement for bargaining unit members from the level 1 contracted out towers
  • Reflected NATCA’s growth as the “voice of working air traffic controllers”
  • Transportation Secretary Federico Pena addressed the convention body as the first Congressional speaker at a Convention in NATCA’s history
  • MEBA President Gene DeFries addressed the convention body

1996: Pittsburgh: NATCA’s Sixth Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Forging a More Perfect Union”
  • Issues:
    • Delegates vote to extend membership to include corporate and associate memberships
    • Establish national seniority system
    • Debated future affiliation with MEBA versus AFL-CIO
Roberts Rules2
A 1990s Robert’s Rules of Order cheat sheet.

1998: Seattle: NATCA’s Seventh Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Where the Union Reigns”
  • Issues:
    • Establish use of Robert’s Rules of Order at this and all future conventions
    • Engineers gained full voting rights
    • Decided to give the National Executive Board an allotted sum to purchase NATCA Headquarters
  • Union leadership touted that the Union “grew up” at this convention

2000: Anchorage: NATCA’s Eighth Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Prospecting NATCA’s Future”
  • Issues:
    • Engineers passed amendments to the constitution to reflect the Union’s diversity beyond air traffic controllers
    • Passed bylaws to honor individuals for service to the Union
    • Three areas remained unchanged: seniority, dues structure, and organizing efforts
Bryan Z
Several NATCA members in bands performed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame stage during the 2002 convention, including Great Lakes Regional Vice President Bryan Zilonis (pictured left) with his band, Something Orange.

2002: Cleveland: NATCA’s Ninth Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Rockin’ the Labor World”
  • Issues:
    • Engineers were now recognized as “Region X”
    • Privatization
  • Then AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department Executive Director (now President) Ed Wytkind addressed the convention body

2004: St. Louis: NATCA’s 10th Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “The Spirit of Labor”
  • Issues:
    • Making the general public aware of staffing problems within the National Airspace System
    • A panel of NATCA counsels evaluated the impact of elections on various issues important to NATCA
    • Heated debate over NATCA’s national seniority system
  • Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., addressed the convention body

2006: Boston: NATCA’s 11th Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “NATCA Revolution”
  • Issues:
    • Discussion on Air Traffic Contract negotiation impasse process and briefing on content of impending work rules
    • Seniority debate continues from previous convention
    • Debate on if retired members could run for NATCA leadership positions
  • Turning point in the Union’s history
    • Air traffic control contract negotiations reached impasse and the clock was ticking leading up to the FAA unilaterally imposing its last best offer: the dark days now referred to as the “White Book”

2008: Miami: NATCA’s 12th Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Hurricane NATCA”
  • Issues:
    • Delegates showed strong support for the Obama-Biden Presidential ticket in the upcoming presidential election
    • Discussion centered on fighting for fair collective bargaining rights, as the negative toll taken by the White Book continued
  • AFL-CIO President John Sweeney addressed the convention body
NATCA President Paul Rinaldi, Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, former NATCA President Barry Krasner, and National Legislative Committee Chairman Steve Weidner at the front table during the 2010 convention.

2010: Honolulu: NATCA’s 13th Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Ohana”
  • Issues:
    • Heightened focus on safety
    • Embracing the idea of learning from the past and building for the future
  • Hawaii Governor-Elect Neil Abercrombie addressed the convention body
  • Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, addressed the convention body
The 2012 convention body.

2012: Denver: NATCA’s 14th Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “A Mile High Reaching Higher”
  • Issues:
    • Debate on Union policies regarding the constitution
    • Seniority/seniority policy is again debated
    • Banning of write-in votes for local elections
    • Passing a measure to allow more freedom in appointing members to the Convention Planning Committee in order to have more input from past convention planners
  • Celebrated Union’s 25-year anniversary
    • Paid tribute to NATCA pioneers
    • Up-and-coming activists spoke of the commitment needed to lead through the next 25 years
  • Largest attendance ever at a convention
  • Past and present NATCA Presidents discussed Union together
  • Noted labor activist and musician Tom Morello, also known as “The Nightwatchman”, performed at a convention event and the convention body elected to name him an honorary member


2014: Minneapolis: NATCA’s 15th Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Labor’s North Star”
  • Issues:
    • Constitutional changes allowed NATCA to have a seat at the table on discussions about ATC reform possibilities
    • 93 percent of delegates voted to adopt the NEB’s plan for stabilizing NATCA’s dues structure
    • Delegates challenged to set the course for NATCA by moving us from good to great
    • Honored the late Chairman Jim Oberstar by renaming the Sentinel of Safety Award in his honor
    • Honored the late John Thornton by creating an award in his name to recognize members whose extraordinary contributions have significantly changed the course of NATCA history
  • AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler addressed the convention body


2016: San Diego: NATCA’s 16th Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Salute to Service”
  • Issues:
    • Constitutional changes continued to allow NATCA to have a seat at the table on discussions about ATC reform possibilities
    • Discussion on national committees, including the Safety Committee
    • Established a Platinum Lifetime Retirement Membership
  • Medal of Honor recipient and U.S. Army Captain (ret.) Florent “Flo” Groberg addressed and was honored by the convention body
  • Resulting Constitution

2018: Philadelphia: NATCA’s 17th Biennial Convention

  • Theme: “Nation’s Birthplace, Labor’s Heartbeat”
  • Issues:
    • Delegates prioritized unity and fiscal responsibility
    • Discussion and action included Region X seniority, training and meeting reimbursement rules, and convention fiscal responsibility
    • Delegates and members resoundingly supported and passed an amendment to raise the EVP’s salary to $260,000, the same as NATCA President
    • AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (pictured above with NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, delivered a fiery, uplifting, and inspiring keynote address to kick off the final day of the convention
    • Penn State professor Paul Clark spoke about labor education and the benefits of the Penn State World Campus / NATCA alliance
  • The NATCA Charitable Foundation raised more than $76,000 and NATCA President Paul Rinaldi set the challenge of making NCF a $1 million charity
  • Snowball Express Program Director Buck Kern joined Gary Sinise (via videotaped message) in thanking NATCA members for their support of this important charity
  • Resulting Constitution
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