NATCA Legislative Victories

FAA Personnel Reform 

Throughout 1995 and 1996, NATCA successfully lobbied to have language included in the FAA’s bills that allows labor organizations at the FAA to negotiate for pay. The lobbying effort utilized many legislative vehicles, and along with NATCA’s negotiations efforts, resulted in air traffic controllers moving off the General System (GS) wage scale and on to the Air Traffic pay system contained in our contract. The resulting 1998 agreement included a new pay system based upon complexity and volume. That pay system with subsequent updates, remains in effect today. 

Title 49 Fix 

During the President George W. Bush Administration, the FAA exploited language in Title 49 of the US Code to impose work and pay rules on our members. NATCA worked tirelessly for seven years to have the language in Title 49 fixed. On February 14, 2012, President Obama signed HR658 – The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 - into law. HR658 requires independent, third party, binding arbitration on all labor contract impasses between the FAA and its labor organizations and ensures that NATCA members will never again have work and pay rules imposed upon them. 

Gingrey Amendment - 1 

On March 31, 2011, during House debate on HR658, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Representative Phil Gingrey (R- GA) introduced an amendment that would have prohibited FAA employees from engaging in union activities during the official workday. In other words, his amendment would have eliminated official time for all union representatives at the FAA. When the amendment came to a vote, it was soundly defeated 195-227. Nearly all Democrats and 41 Republicans voted against the amendment and in favor of keeping official time for NATCA and other unions at the FAA. 

Gingrey Amendment - 2 

On June 10, 2014, during the House debate on HR4745 – the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill – Representative Gingrey (R-GA) again introduced an amendment that would have prohibited employees covered by this appropriations bill - including employees at the FAA - from engaging in union activities during the official workday. Much like his amendment three years earlier, this amendment would have eliminated official time for all unions at the FAA – including NATCA. When the amendment came to a roll-call vote, it was again soundly defeated 167-254. This time every Democrat and sixty Republicans voted with NATCA, and against this harmful amendment. 

Per Diem at FAA Academy 

From 2005 to 2007, the FAA unilaterally decided to stop paying newly hired air traffic controller trainees per diem during initial training at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. The FAA’s decision created a significant financial hardship for many students. NATCA worked with then-Senator Lieberman (D-CT), who in turn worked with the FAA, to have per diem reinstated. As a result of that work, all newly hired air traffic controller students attending initial training at the FAA Academy receive per diem. 

GI Bill Benefits 

For many years, veterans within the FAA sought to use their GI Bill benefits in an apprenticeship form during ATC training. In 2006, the FAA ruled that receiving GI Bill benefits while in training to be an air traffic controller would constitute prohibited dual compensation and was henceforth illegal. NATCA began working with the Department of Labor and Veterans Affairs to have this ruling overturned. NATCA also involved two members of California’s Congressional delegation to push for a change. In March 2008, as a result of these efforts, the Veterans Administration certified ATC training as an apprenticeship program and the FAA began recognizing our veterans at the Academy and during on-the-job training as eligible for GI Bill benefits. Our Brothers and Sisters who proudly served in the military are now able to take advantage of an earned benefit. 

Federal Pay Freezes 

From 2011 to 2013 pay for federal employees was frozen first by the Administration and then by an appropriations act. Several members of Congress inquired as to whether those freezes would also include air traffic controllers. Our negotiated contract covering Air Traffic Control Specialists, Traffic Management Coordinators/Specialists, and NOTAM Specialists provided for 3% annual increases for all bargaining unit employees during this period. NATCA worked closely with the Obama Administration and our allies on the Hill to ensure that our contract, the Red Book, would not be adversely affected. 

Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 

In April of 2013, as a result of sequestration mandated budget cuts, the FAA began furloughing all FAA employees one day per pay period and proposed to shut down the Federal Contract Tower program. NATCA worked closely with several members of Congress to produce HR1765 – The Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013. This legislation quickly passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by the President, ending the furloughs and halting plans to close contract towers. The successful passage of this legislation was recognized by the political publication, The Hill, as the fourth most successful lobbying effort of 2013.

TSP Bill 

In May 2015, Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA) introduced HR2146 – Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act. This bill eliminated the 10% tax penalty on early distributions from our TSP for retired employees who qualify for air traffic control retirement, once they have reached age 50.. The bill was originally only going to include federal law enforcement officers, customs and border protection officers, and federal firefighters. However, due to our tremendous relationship with Congressman Reichert, he accepted our request to add air traffic controllers to his bill because controllers are also subject to early retirement. The bill passed and was signed into law on June 29, 2015. This bill gives us more flexibility with our retirements and saves us thousands of dollars in potential early withdraw penalties. 

Air Traffic Controller Hiring Improvement Act of 2016 

In May 2016, Congressmen Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) introduced HR5292 – The Air Traffic Controller Hiring Improvement Act of 2016. HR5292 streamlined the hiring process for our veterans, prior experience controllers, and CTI students. It also extended the hiring age from 30 to 35 for qualified, prior experience candidates. Getting co-sponsors on that bill was the “ask” for our activists at NATCA in Washington (NIW) that year. Over the course of two days on the Hill, our NIW activists were able to secure 260 co-sponsors for this bill. As a result, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman, Bill Shuster (R-PA) agreed to include the language from HR5292 on the FAA Authorization extension the next month. That language is now law, providing some much-needed relief from the controller staffing crisis.