THIRTY years ago today, when he threatened to fire nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers unless they called off an illegal strike, Ronald Reagan not only transformed his presidency, but also shaped the world of the modern workplace.
Address List | Memorial List | E-mail Directory | Home Page
Last revised: September 22, 2014 -
Chicago Center Album #81.
7:00 a.m. - August 3, 1981
Most Air Traffic Control Specialists are employed by the federal government through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and responsible for directing and separating the movement of air traffic in the USA under changing variances such as weather, flight configurations and ground conditions. The Air Traffic Procedures Manual (ATP) states that Air Traffic Controllers are responsible for "...safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of air traffic."
The consequences of error, whether they are human or technical, places an enormous burden on Air Traffic Controllers. This job is often listed as one of the most stressful occupations anyone ever encounters.
The "Corson Report", a government study described the following special talents and aptitudes required to become a successful controller:
|1. A highly developed capacity for spatial
2. A keenly developed, quick and retentive memory.
3. A capacity for articulated and decisive voice communications.
4. A capacity for rapid decision-making, combined with mature judgment.
The public finally recognized that an Air Traffic Control system even existed after a series of 8 tragic aircraft accidents beginning with the crash of a Southwest Airlines DC-3 (4/6/51), and ending with the mid-air collision between a Capitol Airlines Viscount and an Air National Guard Jet over Brunswick, MD (5/20/58). The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 established a specific agency to regulate, control and make policy regarding the Air Traffic Control System.
A mid-air collision (December 16, 1960) between a TWA Super Constellation and a United B-707 over Brooklyn took 128 lives. The only controller voice was the Air Traffic Controllers Association (ATCA), founded in 1956, and they failed to adequately address the concerns and questions that eventually led them to seek alternatives.
On January 17, 1962, President Kennedy implemented Executive Order 10988 providing for the lawful organization of federal employees. Jack Maher, former NY Center controller, recalled the tragic Brooklyn mid-air collision and was one of the founders of PATCO.
In December, 1967, Mike Rock of LGA Tower had an opportunity to meet with F. Lee Bailey, an avid aviator and well-known criminal attorney. Mike Rock requested Bailey's support in creating a national organization to represent all controllers. On January 11, 1968, a national meeting of interested and concerned controllers was held at the International Hotel at JFK airport. The flamboyant and charismatic Bailey helped form a singular organization with the self-responsibility of representing controller's interests, and the new era of PATCO was born.
PATCO held its first convention June 30-July 3, 1968 at the Pick Congress Hotel in Chicago. Jimmy Hays of ORD was elected the first president. A PATCO trustee and friend of F. Lee Bailey, Johnny Carson had both Mike Rock and Jack Maher on the Carson show on June 17, 1969. Bailey told them to use the show to call a job action, not a 'slowdown', but a 'sickout'. (It lasted 3 days)
On March 25, 1970, a second PATCO 'sickout', job action, lasted three weeks, and cost the airlines about $7,000.00 a minute. ATA filed a lawsuit against PATCO for $100. million.
John Layden was elected president of PATCO at the 3rd Convention in Las Vegas in 1970, and pledged to set a course of action which would rebuild, consolidate, and control and secure recognition for PATCO. In June, 1970 F. Lee Bailey's resignation as general counsel was accepted, which bolstered PATCO's chances for survival.
In 1978, in Las Vegas, at its 11th convention, PATCO's Executive Board unanimously recommend a job action. (Issues included overseas FAM trips and negotiations with the FAA). Conflict within the PATCO upper echelon led up to a January 1980 meeting in which Bob Poli suggested that Leyden step down and accept the role as 'president emeritus'.
25 Yrs. Later
Poli's success in his quest for the presidency was partly due to his popularity
with the rank-and-file controllers.
At a meeting in Chicago on January 3, 1980, the Executive Board accepted Leyden's resignation. Poli was elevated to the presidency and Bob Meyer was appointed Executive Vice-President. Poli met with Candidate Ronald Reagan in September and October, 1980, and was assured of his concern and willingness to address and resolve controller issues.
The 1981 PATCO convention in New Orleans set a strike deadline of June 22 which encouraged a meeting with Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis and Poli.
Much conflict, nothing resolved. A PATCO open Executive Board meeting was held on July 2, 1981 in Chicago.
86% of eligible bargaining-unit employees voted, and at 7:00 a.m., August 3, 1981:
PATCO was on strike!
President Reagan fired 13,459 Controllers.
August 3, 1981
"COLLISION COURSE: RONALD REAGAN, THE
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS,
AND THE STRIKE THAT CHANGED AMERICA"
By Joseph A. McCartin - (Labor Professor at Georgetown University)
Available now November, 2011 - Oxford
Amazon.com $19.77 or Kindle edition: $9.99
A New President, and a Union's Last Stand
By BRYAN BURROUGH
"How Could We Ever Forget?"
NATCA = http://www.natca.org
of Air Traffic Control - Website:
Last revised: September 22, 2014
Copyright © 2014 by RWF2000