District Advocates: Virtual Events, the New Normal

By ALPA Staff
Capt. Doug Mattson (United), a member of his pilot group’s Master Executive Council Legislative Affairs Committee, recently met virtually with Rep. Rick Larsen, chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, and his staff to advocate for ALPA’s pilot-partisan agenda.

In early March, the world was upended by COVID-19. All aspects of how companies and individuals do business changed in an instant. Travel was canceled. Working remotely became the new normal. In-person events, including fly-ins, fundraisers, and meetings, were all put on hold or postponed. But through technology, ALPA has been able to leverage its pilot-partisan voice in a new way, including how it engages with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and Parliament Hill.

Virtual events are the new normal. Platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and WebEx allow people to connect face-to-face so that they can build and maintain relationships. Members of Congress, for example, have adapted their political and official events to live virtual platforms, enabling them to continue to engage with constituents and lobbyists during these unprecedented times.

The new virtual environment has created a space where policymakers and their constituents can meet quickly and effectively one-on-one. It allows individuals to conveniently connect from living rooms, or crew rooms, to hear their Member of Congress or Parliament speak at large virtual town halls or at intimate events in which the individual could be the only one meeting with the legislator.

Constituents’ demand for virtual events will likely continue well after the COVID-19 crisis due to their increasing popularity. People want to connect with and hear what their federal legislators are working on and how they can impact the process.

ALPA members have been engaging with lawmakers through various virtual events like the ones listed below to ensure that the pilot-partisan message continues to be heard loud and clear.

Virtual Town Hall

This event consists of constituents participating in a forum-style online meeting with their Members of Congress to engage on one or two topics and have a meaningful discussion. ALPA’s Government Affairs Committee chairs participated in a virtual town hall with Rep. John Katko (R-NY-24) and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA-2) on June 3. During the town hall, Katko and Larsen shared their perspectives about legislation under consideration in Congress with the ALPA members.

Telephone Town Hall

This is a large-scale event that includes many constituents who participate at one time. Callers are given the opportunity to ask questions in a moderated forum, and lawmakers attempt to answer as many questions as possible. Callers are often directed to connect with a lawmaker’s office.

Video Member Briefing

This is a small event hosted by a Member of Congress to discuss specific policy areas and to inform attendees of the state of current legislation.

Industry Panel

This event consists of participants discussing shared topics of interest to solve problems and build consensus. Access to these events can be found by following the social media channels of Members of Congress or signing up for their newsletters. Government agencies such as the FAA and Transport Canada can also be followed on social media. Capt. Bob Fox, ALPA’s first vice president, took part in an industry panel during an FAA-hosted meeting in May to discuss the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 crisis (see "ALPA to FAA and Industry").

Technology has allowed ALPA to share its voice and ensure that pilot issues and perspectives remain at the forefront of congressional and parliamentary debate. It’s critical that the Association continues to have face-to-face meetings to develop and build relationships. As technology persists in shaping the advocacy world, ALPA must adapt to it and embrace the momentum for the foreseeable future.

Dos and Don’ts

Keep the following in mind the next time you consider attending a virtual or in-person event:

  • Contact ALPA’s Government Affairs Department before you attend. Department staff can provide training before you engage with Members of Congress and Parliament.
  • Do your research on the event and know who’s attending.
  • If you don’t know an answer, don’t guess.
  • Share your personal experiences; make it local.
  • Take a photo or post it to your social networks only if you’ve been instructed to.
  • Record and report any feedback to ALPA’s Government Affairs Department.

This article was originally published in the June 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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