Friday, May 01, 2009

The Drama Continues



I saw the news just before I went to bed last night. I thought I’d wait until this morning to see what the Press would say about yesterday’s big (to controllers) announcement. Interestingly enough, not much.

”LaHood announced that he has tapped Jane Garvey, who was FAA administrator during the Clinton administration and the first year of the Bush administration, to oversee negotiations aimed at resolving a bitter dispute between the agency and its air traffic controllers.“

And that paragraph was buried way down in a story entitled:

Transportation secretary hints at aid for airlines

For those that don’t know, Ms. Garvey negotiated the last full contract with NATCA (Ms. Blakey extended it two years before imposing her own) and those negotiations earned controllers some substantial raises. Some thought Ms. Garvey gave away the farm. I thought she just brought us back up to where were supposed to be, after 15 years of inflation eating away at our salaries during Reagan and Bush.

But it wasn’t just the money. Ms. Garvey (and the Clinton Administration) insisted that the FAA collaborate with NATCA. NATCA was “in the loop” on major projects and had a voice as to what equipment we’d be working with and how we were going to work with it. It wasn’t a bed of roses but at least there was labor peace. Okay, peace is too strong a word. Let’s make it a truce. Things got done.

When the second Bush Administration came along and installed Marion Blakey as FAA Administrator, the FAA saw its chance to “take back” the FAA. And they did it with a vengeance. The rest of the story is on this blog. They took it back and they broke it. Controllers (including myself) retired in droves. Just to provide some perspective -- and honesty -- I was going to retire regardless. I left a week or two before Marion Blakey imposed her contract. Things have been ugly in the FAA...well, forever. I was more than ready to leave. Eight years before mandatory retirement. Blakey just made an already tough job so bad that everyone else left too.

You really ought to go back and take a critical look at Ms. Blakey’s justifications for imposing her contract. And then compare it with the reality of today. I think the disastrous results speak for themselves.

So, for today, the air traffic controllers -- desperate for any good news -- are happy to hear about Ms. Garvey’s appointment. I am too. But my enthusiasm is guarded. I’ll end by reminding you of what I’ve said before.

”Back to the controllers. NATCA is asking to “return to the bargaining table” during the worst economic crisis since the Depression and negotiate with a guy that just fired the CEO of GM. Furthermore, it is doing so with a membership that is highly fractured, inexperienced and thoroughly demoralized. Good luck with that NATCA. “

Don Brown
May 1, 2009

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