Contract Deadline Looming, NATCA Expands Public Outreach
The clock is ticking for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), which is facing a June 5 deadline for Congress to take action, or else the FAA's contract will be unilaterally imposed on air traffic controllers. The union already has taken its case to the public via TV ads, but last week the union started a face-to-face campaign. At airports around the country, controllers handed out leaflets to the flying public, asking them to lobby their congressional representatives to support bills that would help NATCA's cause. The union told flyers that if Congress doesn't act, one in four controllers -- nearly 4,000 total -- could retire next year upon reaching their eligibility date, leading to staffing shortages and flight delays. "The FAA has a big staffing problem on its hands already; it's more than 1,000 controllers short nationally from 2003 workforce totals," NATCA President John Carr said. "This new round of retirements would create safety and delay problems." FAA spokesman Geoffrey Basye told the New York Daily News that NATCA was distributing propaganda. "Whatever the current retirement outlook, whether at Kennedy or LaGuardia, we have the pipeline in place to guarantee smooth transitions as retirements occur," Basye told the newspaper.