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Watch the panel discussion here.

The organizers of NATCA’s 17th Biennial Convention in Philadelphia themed each day based on phrases from the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. The third day of the Convention was themed “Building a More Perfect Union.” Founding father Benjamin Franklin’s notable words describing the U.S. Constitution are quite appropriate: “The constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

Similarly, NATCA’s members' efforts to continue evolving and improving upon its successes are never done. It is dependent upon every member getting involved, making their voice heard, and holding their Union up to the highest possible standard. Dawn Johnson (Atlanta Center), NATCA Eastern Service Area Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) and Chair of the National Reloaded Committee, and Richard Kennington (Portland, Ore., ATCT), Northwest Mountain Region National Legislative Committee Chair, lead a panel on Friday dedicated to helping the membership become active and work to improve their Union. They and the panelists provided vivid details of how they found their passion within the Union to attendees on the final day of the Convention.

Nick Daniels, FacRep, Fort Worth Center, NATCA Academy and Training; Sam Navarro, FacRep, Seattle ATCT, NATCA Reloaded Committee; John Bratcher, Chair, NATCA Benefits Committee and NATCA Organizing Committee; Della Swartz, Region X Professional Standards Program National Workgroup; Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, Western Pacific Region Chair, National Legislative Committee; and Bob Obma, Indianapolis Center, NATCA Outreach, all gave their unique perspectives during the panel. The vast ray of experience shared made it clear that there is no one “right way” to push NATCA forward.

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Sam Navarro John Bratcher


Kennington opened the panel with his motivating factor for getting more involved with NATCA. “Nobody cared about my career, my profession, as much as I did,” he said.

“You don’t make a difference or any changes in your profession by going into management,” Johnson added. “You make a difference by going into the Union. The Union will be your voice.”

Pesiri-Dybvik explained that her call to action was the driving force of solidarity. She noted that as union members, you don’t necessarily need to come from a place of contention or an adversarial environment to become impassioned about your union. She also noted that face-to-face and personal communication resonated with her from the get-go with NATCA.

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Nick Daniels and Sam Navarro

“If you find something you care about deeply, you can have that same feeling,” she explained. “It’s our purpose and our passion that drives us.”

Bratcher noted that his passion for organizing came from seeing NATCA members talk about being NATCA members. “Nobody talked to people about joining NATCA like its members,” he said, noting that it continues to inspire him every day.

Swartz focused on the challenge of becoming engaged as a member of Region X.

“One of our strengths is the great diversity we have,” she said. “[But] it is a challenge to communicate to our membership.”

She explained that to be successful in grassroots organizing if communication is a challenge is to see what works for your local membership, whether it’s email, face-to-face conversations, or something else. She noted it’s also important to communicate even if things are going well to ensure solidarity and involvement stays strong year-round.

Swartz also described the importance of community building and getting involved with the local pilot community.

UnionPanel3Richard Kennington and Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik

Daniels echoed her comments, saying, “communication is key.” He also stressed the importance of not just engaging with your fellow brothers and sisters, but also with their families.

“Bring them and encourage them to attend,” he said. “Make them aware of benefits (of membership) as well.”

Navarro described the importance of educating members on the importance of being engaged with their union and encouraged everyone to take a class with the NATCA Academy.

Obma described the challenge of finding what new members are passionate about. He explained that “first impressions are key,” and it’s important for current leaders to speak with them and identify their passions so they can steer them in the right direction. He said that if leaders had not taken the time to do that for him, he may never have gotten involved in the first place, explaining that their confidence in him gave him confidence in himself.

It is up to you, the Union member, to continue to lift NATCA up and move the Union forward. With countless opportunities to get involved, the only thing holding you back is you. No matter how large or small the contribution, it makes a big difference in pushing our profession forward and supporting your brothers and sisters. Tell us how you plan to build a more perfect union. Use #NATCAstrong, #NATCAfamily, and share on NATCA’s social media.

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Della Swartz Bob Obma