When it comes to labor-management relations, what typically dominates the headlines are the boisterous disagreements, emotional point-counterpoint arguments, and sad economic news of layoffs, lost benefits, even facility closures. And there’s an all too familiar refrain: labor blames management for failed leadership or corporate greed, while management cites excessive labor costs paralyzing the enterprise’s competitive ability.
What a delightful surprise to open the January 2012 edition of The Controller: Journal of Air Traffic Control and hear labor and management leaders singing a very different song; in fact, sounding like they’re on the same sheet of music!
The publication, produced by the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations, focuses on collaboration, and carries articles penned by David Grizzle, Chief Operating Officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, and Darrell Meachum, IFATCA’s Executive Vice President of Finance.
Both men approach the subject from their own unique background and perspective. Grizzle, an attorney by training and former airline executive, cites the initiatives the FAA and labor are on working on together to improve the efficiency of the national airspace; assure the safety and health of employees; to minimize fuel costs to carriers while protecting the environment; and more. In Meachum’s article, he recounts the ups and downs on a collaborative roller-coaster that spanned his nearly 30 years as an air traffic controller with the FAA, 20 of which he served as a union official with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
And while the paths to their current leadership posts have been decidedly different, their comments indicate they have arrived at very similar conclusions:
Grizzle, explaining why the agency and labor decided to take a deliberate and structured approach to collaboration, notes, “The reason is simple. People doing the day-to-day work know where change is needed and have the experience to find innovative solutions. Collaboration harnesses this expertise at a pivotal time, as the FAA champions the development and implementation of NextGen.” And Meachum, also referencing that next generation systems are being designed and built, states, “How quickly and efficiently these will become operational, will to a large extent depend upon the degree of involvement by line air traffic controllers in the future system’s conception and implementation.”
And just as Meachum asserts, “A management philosophy that treats employees with honor, dignity and respect is generally rewarded with the same,” Grizzle concludes, “Collaboration at all levels is worth the effort because it almost always produces better outcomes… we have been able to accomplish things that we probably couldn’t have done without collaboration.”
Those beliefs, and the resultant leadership actions, are indeed music to the ear.
*In the spirit of full disclosure, we are proud to note that the Air Traffic Organization, NATCA and PASS (referenced in the article pictured) are among our joint labor-management clients.
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