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From the Desk of Rich Santa: Looking Forward to Convention

Brothers and Sisters,

As you prepare to travel to Houston to represent your facilities and your fellow brothers and sisters at the 18th Biennial Convention next week, please know how grateful I am for the efforts you are making to attend, and for your commitment to this great Union. 

It is vitally important to our Union to hold this convention in person. It’s a requirement of the NATCA constitution to have a biennial convention, of course. But our desire to hold this event has not been driven solely by that fact. 

Like other Americans, NATCA members have mourned those who have passed because of this awful virus and aided and comforted members of our families and our Union who have fought this illness. But our experiences on the job during this pandemic have been unique in many ways. We are essential employees ensuring the safe passage of both travelers and the COVID-19 vaccine. And during the pandemic, while other sectors of our economy were shut down, we continued operating in close quarters without the benefit of social distancing. We endured a seemingly never-ending series of disruptions to our operations due to positive tests in our facilities. We can always be proud that the National Airspace System operated safely during this challenging time. Away from the job, we also have worked very hard to keep the business of the Union running as smoothly as possible, using the benefits of modern technology and our representatives’ extraordinary dedication to NATCA to power us forward on everything from virtual national, regional, and local union meetings to virtual training classes.

But there is no substitute for an in-person gathering when it comes to an event as important as our convention. These are memorable, soul-enriching, and relationship-building experiences for a Union such as ours, which was built on a foundation of passionate commitment to strong solidarity. We have always maintained the value of every voice in our membership. The only way to properly facilitate hearing those voices is an in-person convention with open microphones and robust discussion and debate.

Throughout NATCA’s history, our conventions have served to galvanize us, inspire us, unify us, and propel us into the next two years with optimism and feeling invigorated. Looking back at our history, it all started with NATCA’s founding convention in September 1986, where 72 delegates attended at the Chicago-O’Hare Ramada Hotel. There, the Union announced it had collected more than 4,200 signatures – about 33% of the workforce – calling for an election on whether to form a union. But the Union wanted to gather many more signatures before filing them with the Federal Labor Relations Authority to help ensure a big win. 

Part of NATCA’s welcome letter to controllers stated, “The NATCA Founding Convention is an historic occasion, and it is hoped that we all leave here with a renewed sense of purpose. We are only halfway home and the real test – the election – still lies ahead of us. Certification is in our grasp if we are willing to work hard enough for it. We know we can do it.”

A big win is exactly what NATCA got nine months later, in June 1987, and our great Union was off and running. This is NATCA’s guiding work ethic – to strive to work harder and never be satisfied with where we are. That continues to this day.

Your safety means everything to us. We selected these dates after going through an exhaustive process within the National Executive Board to ensure that every possible condition has trended positively, and every possible precaution has been taken. We slimmed down the agenda to focus exclusively on the business of the Union. There are no gatherings outside the hotel, and we’ll safely distance during the general sessions and at the limited mealtimes, which will be held on a different floor. 

The pandemic may have delayed us, but it cannot stop our duty to conduct our business and represent each of our nearly 16,000 brothers and sisters around the country. We owe it to our predecessors before us, and our fellow members today, to gather together.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

In solidarity,

Rich Santa

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