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March 2024 New England Bi-Monthly Regional Update #1

From Mick Devine, NATCA New England Regional Vice President

DevineMick 59895 8344 min

Greetings New England. Coming off the heels of the NEB meeting and NATCA opening up the Purple and Light Blue Books for negotiations, it seemed like a good time to discuss negotiations and how, in a collaborative environment, you set yourself and your organization for success. We tell our reps often, traditional negotiations are successful when you are prepared, have created leverage, and master timing. Your New England reps are well-versed in leverage and why it is so important.

Being prepared goes beyond the obvious of knowing what the problems are and creating ideas for solutions. While those are obviously of the utmost importance, you must also prepare your leverage. Leverage is always the key, whether it is just to get to the table to negotiate, or when you’re actively negotiating, and you need assistance getting your ideas over the finish line. The preparation of leverage is what enables you to master timing. They are all intermingled.

In terms of leverage, whether it be in an MOU negotiation, the decision to open a contract, or simply a discussion on a new procedure you or the FAA wants, leverage is the key. World-renowned negotiation expert, Marty Latz teaches the 14 keys surrounding leverage:

1. Get information about the other side’s true needs, wants, and fears.
2. Improve the value of your alternative/Plan B
3. Consider how you might limit the attractiveness of the other side’s alternatives.
4. After you’ve evaluated the leverage and improved your own Plan B, determine how to effectively use it
5. Value your reputation as a goal
6. Downplay your leverage.
7. Emphasize “fair” standards
8. Concede some items
9. Don’t impose your agenda
10. Understand perceptions’ impact on the process
11. Research parties’ historical perceptions and expectations
12. Consciously manage expectations to your benefit
13. Don’t cross the ethical line
14. Leverage is a relative concept: Be strategic about what leverage information you disclose

We as an organization, a region, a local, an area as well as the members at large need to understand the importance of leverage, timing, and preparation and how it affects the decisions we make at all levels. Once you’ve established leverage, timing, and preparation, we must go to risk. What is the risk we face by engaging with your counterpart?

One of the things we used to teach is the importance of a BATNA. Your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA, is often your best source of bargaining power. By cultivating a strong outside alternative, you can gain the power you need to walk away from an unappealing deal. A weak BATNA is what drives up risk. BATNAs really don’t come much into play in collaboration. Our contract refers to collaboration as both parties making a “genuine effort” to meet as many of both parties’ interests as you can.

Leverage is the key to our success. It is what allows us to get what we want, or conversely, without it, makes any negotiation an uphill battle. In cases where the contract is expiring like the purple and blue books, it doesn’t require leverage to open, but it will require leverage to be successful. In instances like the slate book, where it doesn’t expire for another two years, it takes great leverage to even try to open it up.

The NEB meeting was heavily focused on the impending shutdown, and our timelines of events, strategies, and tactics to combat it. Luckily, we averted the shutdown just a few hours after we adjourned from that meeting. One of the things that we should refresh everyone on is the Government Employees Fair Treatment Act (GEFTA) which rose from the ashes of the shutdown in 2018-2019 and said that our members would get paid back after a shutdown. If you remember, while we always did, there was no requirement to pay our people back. However, an important note, we are in a unique situation where our authorization and appropriations run out together. This would happen under the scenario where we are shutdown due to lack of funding and our FAA Reauthorization runs out at the same time. In those cases, GEFTA does not apply.

From Scott Robillard, NATCA New England Senior Advisor

Welcome to March! It’s been a long winter. Let’s hope it almost over. If you have been following along, reading Regional updates or attending Regional meetings, you have probably heard a consistent message… You always need to know:

Where you were. Where you are. Where you are going.

To illustrate this message and provide some perspective, I’d like to take a look at Controller-In-Charge (CIC).

Most times, when you hear about the 1998 Collective Bargaining Agreement (“Green Book”), you hear about “reclass” and the creation of the AT pay bands that broke us out of the limited GS pay scale. But there was also a change to CIC—and it changed significantly.

Prior to the 1998 CBA, you were not paid to work CIC and as CIC you had limited control of the operation. What the landmark 1998 Green Book introduced was this language in Article 18:

Section 2. When assigned CIC duties, an employee shall be given sufficient authority to fulfill the responsibilities of the assignment. General guidance and goals for the shift shall be conveyed in facility directives and/or during the shift/area position briefing.

Section 3. CIC premium pay shall be paid at the rate of ten (10) percent of the applicable hourly rate of basic pay times the number of hours and portions of hours during which the employee is assigned CIC duties.

While the pay is obvious, it is the language in Section 2 that sets the stage for the current language that exists in FAAO 7210.3 2-6-1. An employee shall be given sufficient authority to fulfill the responsibilities of the assignment. This concept (the ability, training, and authority to actually do the job) is exactly what the intent of the Agency’s Order on Watch Supervision is today. Prior to the contract change in 1998, FAAO 7210.3 did not reach this far. 

FAAO 7210.3 2-6-1 identifies that it is WATCH SUPERVISION that is fully and completely in control of the operation. Watch Supervision is performed from what I call the “WATCH DESK”. It is from here that all the tasks of managing the operation are performed. From things like the processes of leave requests (approvals/denials), directing position relief, making training assignments, and monitoring/managing traffic volume/flow. Obviously, this is not a full list.

In many facilities, it is common for a manager to say something like, “Well, you may be on the desk, but it is still my shift and I am in charge”. FAAO 7210.3 2-6-2 H would disagree:

h. An individual is considered available for watch supervision when he/she is physically present in the operational area and is able to perform the primary duties of the function. If the supervisor/CIC leaves the operational area or is engaged in an activity which will interfere with or preclude the performance of watch supervision duties, then another qualified individual must be designated to supervise the watch.

Under Article 18, it would be very reasonable for an OS to give direction to the relieving CIC. Something like “assign training to employee X, or open sector Y” are normal and expected. But it is required to be in the briefing, on the recorded line, AND given at the time of relief. They cannot manage from the peanut gallery! See FAAO 7210.3BB

Sometimes FAA Managers are confused that an Operations Supervisor or Operations Manager has some sort of “inherent” authority by their position that extends to how a shift is being run. Well, they don’t. Sorry to all the managers who read this: it simply is not true.

Watch Desk/watch supervision is where operational control is held. If you want any reinforcement or additional evidence, look at any FAA announcement for an Operational Supervisor. What you will find under the responsibilities section is a list of things like “Serves as a member of the management team to improve organizational performance and to meet strategic goals,” and “Continuously reviews work processes to assure that results meet the agency’s mission and the customer’s needs, add value to facility services, and are efficiently achieved.” But it is the last line of every OS bid in the responsibilities section that should get your attention: “When assigned as Watch Supervisor, assumes overall management and supervision of the control room.”

Where am I going with this? Well, if your facility has a policy that restricts the operation of the Watch Desk based on WHO is assigned to it, please go talk to your FacRep.

Side note: After the 1998 CBA, the GOA was asked by Congress to look at the FAA’s agreement with NATCA and the expanded use of CICs. It is an interesting read.

NATCA in Washington

From Jamie Green, NATCA New England Legislative Chair, PVD

Your NATCA Legislative Team works continuously to foster relationships to grow our NATCA Majority consisting of both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.  The relationships we build with members of Congress are vital to our success.  Throughout the year we build these relationships in-district but NATCA in Washington provides a unique opportunity to meet Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. 

Being a constituent, and putting a face to our personal stories, is what makes NATCA’s grassroots legislative efforts so effective. Nobody knows your profession like you!  When meeting with Members of Congress and their staff, you are the subject matter experts. Building these relationships take time and work, but it is the backbone of our legislative efforts! NATCA in Washington is a source of great pride for our Union where we will go through issues that are most important to our profession. We will not only visit offices on the Hill but we will also discuss strategies for you to stay engaged afterward.

NATCA in Washington is a great way to expose yourself to our legislative efforts and to voice our Union’s message!

This year, NATCA in Washington will be held May 1-3, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington, D.C. If you would like to attend this year’s event, please sign up by completing the registration questionnaire no later than March 8.

I will be notifying members selected to go no later than March 25, so please note that your attendance is not guaranteed until it is confirmed.

Please do not make any flight arrangements until you receive a confirmation of attendance. Additionally, transportation expenses are NOT reimbursed by NATCA National. Please check with your FacRep first before you complete any airfare purchase to determine what expense reimbursements, if any, will be provided by your local.

If you have any additional questions, feel reach out to me at [email protected].

Committee Chair Meeting

From Shannon Lyman, NATCA Communications Committee Chair, ZBW

At the end of January, I traveled out to Chicago to join all the other NATCA Committee chairs, co-chairs, and vice chairs, along with the National Executive Board (NEB) for our annual meeting. This year’s meeting was focused on communication, both between committee chairs and the NEB as well as between the committee chairs themselves. As the Communications Committee chair, I lean in when it comes to communication, so this theme was right up my alley.

We started the meeting with briefings from NATCA President Rich Santa and NATCA EVP Andrew LeBovidge, and also were given tips and tricks from the Finance Committee regarding managing our committee budgets. We briefly discussed this year’s Activism and Training Expo (ATX) and received a briefing from the IT Committee on their new centralized email address, [email protected].

From there, we had an important discussion about communicating with our RVP Liaisons. Each committee is assigned an RVP Liaison which gives committees a way to communicate their needs, wants, and issues to the NEB. I am lucky to have established a good level of communication and have the full support of my committee’s RVP Liaison, Aaron Merrick of the Central Region.

At this point in the meeting, we had great conversations about committees and the changes we are sometimes faced with. We developed checklists for new committee members and their onboarding process and discussed how new committee members can be chosen. Each committee is unique in their own way when it comes to the process of soliciting for, obtaining, and ultimately choosing new members; some committees’ charters require them to have one member from each region, while others do not. My committee’s charter, for example, states, “The Communications Committee shall be comprised of one (1) active member in good standing from each region, any ad hoc members, including National Office staff, as needed, and one RVP.” If you are interested in any particular committee’s member requirements, you can view their charter by going to the member’s side of the NATCA website and finding the committee page.

Toward the end of the meeting, we reviewed setting up and running in-person committee meetings. It was a great experience for me to learn how other committee chairs run their meetings since I’m one of the newer chairs in the group. I am grateful that there are other chairs with more experience than me in this arena willing to share their experience and help me to have the ability to run an efficient and productive meeting.

Lastly, we ended the meeting with briefings from a few of the committees, including mine. Our briefing stressed that we are here to help all of NATCA’s committees distribute information to you, the members. Our committee developed an email address to which committees can send their information to, and it has been working out very well. The information my committee receives I share with you via email and on our New England social media accounts.

If you’d like to hear more about this meeting or have any feedback for our New England Communications Team, please reach out to me at [email protected].

Election Support Committee Meeting

From Caitlyn Valeri, NATCA New England Election Support Rep, ZBW

At the beginning of February, the Election Support Committee met in person at NATCA National office. We gathered to discuss current issues being seen in our regions. Some issues that are still being seen are:

  • Using FAA materials or property (ie: mailboxes or lockers)
  • Not mailing a Notice of Election (the only thing specificity mentioned by DOL regulations that needs to be mailed by USPS)
  • Having an unsecured ballot box if balloting in person
  • Management attempting to influence the election

We also are implementing a new system to help simplify our contact and be able to gather the information you send automatically.

If you have any questions regarding your local election or the national election, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] and I will find you an answer!

Drug & Alcohol Committee Meeting

From Jim Basford, NATCA New England Drug & Alcohol Rep, A90

It was a busy month for me with DAC activities. During the first week of February, I had the privilege of teaching my first DAC class. I truly like the education side of my activism and like preparing other members to represent and protect the membership. After one day off, I worked two nights at the TRACON and it was off to the airport again. This time it was to meet with FAA and DOT at NATCA headquarters in Washington D.C. 

While both in Las Vegas and Washington D.C., other members of the DAC committee and I worked on revamping the Drug and Alcohol class. It has been quite a few years and was in need of an overhaul. While the content remains similar, the delivery and sequencing of content were rearranged to flow better.

The meeting with the agency was productive:

  • NATCA asked for an update on oral fluid testing for cannabis. This has been on the agenda for a few meetings and there was no change. On May 2, 2023, DOT authorized oral fluid as another method for testing. NATCA has an interest in what this change will look like for testing versus or in conjunction with urinalysis. The agency advised us as before that there is no Department of Health and Human Services-certified laboratory for the oral fluid testing. The FAA would require two independent HHS-certified labs to begin testing in this manner.
  • NATCA had previously collaborated with the agency on treatment rehabilitation programs. The issue was raised that certain employees were being given restrictions to contact their EAP case manager with any and all shift changes. The agency discussed the desire to not have employee’s TRP extended due to lack of follow-up testing, NATCA committee members explained how controller requests for shift changes and swaps are a routine occurrence. This discussion was one of the most collaborative and productive ones I have seen since joining the committee in the fall of 2022.
  • We had multiple minor issues with testing with regard to employees testing designated position status and or list status after transferring. We brought these to the agency and they will be looking into it. 

First, thanks for reading my update above if you did. The most impactful part of my trip to DC came after we were done with our meeting. While waiting to go to dinner I was sitting with some members of the committee from NNM and NWP regions. We talked about the NNM wellness telcon and the importance of mental health for controllers. This has been a personally important issue for me but hearing what NNM did I felt inspired to bring something like that to New England. When I got back I reached out to some other members in the region. After conversing with basics we brought the idea to Mick and he agreed it was needed.

Look out for our first event in May during Mental Health Awareness Month. I want our event to be more of a discussion than just another briefing. I have secured a member who is going through the SSRI protocol and they are graciously willing to share with us. So I pose the question to you all: what should we talk about? Please feel free to email me questions or discussion topics at [email protected]. I would like to hear from you guys!

Announcements and Information

Interested in learning about ways you can get involved and help other NATCA members? How about taking a NATCA Academy class? All of these classes offer great opportunities to learn more about NATCA and how our union works for its members!

Visit www.natca.org/academy to learn more about each of the courses and https://portal.natca.org to sign up!

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