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E&A Bargaining Unit Celebrates 25 Years of NATCA Representation

November 10 marks the 25th anniversary of NATCA’s certification by the Federal Labor Relations Authority as the exclusive bargaining representative of the first FAA non-controller bargaining unit the Union organized and represented: Engineers & Architects (E&A).

“In 1996, FAA Management told the engineers that they needed a union in order to have a seat at the table and excluded engineers from critical decisions relating to the work environment, project prioritization and planning, and career professionalism,” said Region X (NRX) Alternate Regional Vice President (RVP) Curt Howe, who was one of the initial NATCA organizers working to make engineers a part of the NATCA family. “We organized to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the flying public. Customary workplace issues like pay and schedules were not at the forefront for engineers. Engineers sought a voice in high-level FAA program planning, worker safety, and quality of construction and electronic installations.”

Engineers contacted several unions concerning certification and NATCA changed its national constitution to allow engineers to join, supporting the E&A nationwide organizing effort. Former Great Lakes (NGL) RVP Jim Poole, former NGL ARVP Kevin Christy, and Southwest RVP Rich Phillips were key organizers working to organize the E&A unit, Howe said, and warmly welcomed the E&A unit into NATCA on November 10, 1997.

E&A consists of over 1,300 bargaining unit employees who are responsible for a number of essential services that the flying public doesn’t usually consider when they travel: program management of air traffic control facilities and equipment, maintenance and modernization of the fleet of the FAA’s flight inspection aircraft, ensuring aircraft are properly designed and tested, investigating aircraft incidents, approving airport improvements, implementing new programs, overseeing development projects, and providing software enhancements and maintenance for air traffic automation systems.

“The agency diminished our engineering profession and wanted to classify us with technicians. Many of us saw the need to organize,” Engineer/Northwest Mountain Region (ENM) FacRep Don Schmeichel, who was also an initial E&A organizer, said. “NATCA helped us when others didn’t. They welcomed us into their family and worked with us to secure protections and benefits that many employees take for granted today. Representing our members and their needs is an ongoing process. Joining NATCA was the best decision of my career!”

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