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    Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (1968)

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    Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (1968)

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    For the active PATCO labor unions or disambiguation, see PATCO (disambiguation).


    Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization

    Founded 1968 Dissolved 1981 Location United States Members 13,000

    The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization or PATCO was a United States trade union that operated from 1968 until its decertification in 1981 following an illegal[1] strike that was broken by the Reagan Administration.


    1 Beginnings

    2 August 1981 strike

    3 Legacy

    4 Other ATC trade unions

    5 References 6 Further reading 7 External links


    Year Presidents of PATCO

    1969–1970 James E. Hays

    1970–1980 John F. Leyden

    1980–1982 Robert E. Poli

    1982 Gary W. Eads

    PATCO was founded in 1968 with the assistance of attorney and pilot F. Lee Bailey. On July 3, 1968, PATCO announced "Operation Air Safety" in which all members were ordered to adhere strictly to the established separation standards for aircraft. The resultant large delay of air traffic was the first of many official and unofficial "slowdowns" that PATCO would initiate.

    In 1969, the U.S. Civil Service Commission ruled that PATCO was no longer a professional association but in fact a trade union.[2] On June 18–20, 1969, 477 controllers conducted a three-day sick-out.[3]

    On March 25, 1970, the newly designated union orchestrated a controller "sickout" to protest many of the FAA actions that they felt were unfair; over 2,000 controllers around the country did not report to work as scheduled and informed management that they were ill.[4] Controllers called in sick to circumvent the federal law against strikes by government unions. Management personnel attempted to assume many of the duties of the missing controllers but major traffic delays around the country occurred. On April 16, the federal courts intervened and most controllers went back to work by order of the court, but the government was forced to the bargaining table. The sickout led officials to recognize that the ATC system was operating nearly at capacity. To alleviate some of this, Congress accelerated the installation of automated systems, reopened the air traffic controller training academy in Oklahoma City, began hiring air traffic controllers at an increasing rate, and raised salaries to help attract and retain controllers.[2]

    In the 1980 presidential election, PATCO (along with the Teamsters and the Air Line Pilots Association) refused to back President Jimmy Carter, instead endorsing Republican Party candidate Ronald Reagan. PATCO's refusal to endorse the Democratic Party stemmed in large part from poor labor relations with the FAA (the employer of PATCO members) under the Carter administration and Ronald Reagan's endorsement of the union and its struggle for better conditions during the 1980 election campaign.[5][6]

    During his campaign, Reagan sent a letter to Robert E. Poli, the new president of PATCO, in which he declared support for the organization's demands and a disposition to work toward solutions. In it, he stated "I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available, and to adjust staff levels and workdays so they are commensurate with achieving the maximum degree of public safety," and "I pledge to you that my administration will work very closely with you to bring about a spirit of cooperation between the President and the air traffic controllers." This letter gave Poli and the organization a sense of security that led to an overestimation of their position in the negotiations with the FAA, which contributed to their decision to strike.[7]

    August 1981 strike[edit]

    On August 3, 1981, during a press conference regarding the PATCO strike, President Reagan stated: "They are in violation of the law and if they do not report for work within 48 hours they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated."[8]

    In February 1981, PATCO and the FAA began new contract negotiations. Citing safety concerns, PATCO called for a reduced 32-hour work week, a $10,000 pay increase for all air-traffic controllers and a better benefits package for retirement.[9] Negotiations quickly stalled. Then, in June, the FAA offered a new three-year contract with $105 million of up front conversions in raises to be paid in 11.4% increases over the next three years, a raise more than twice what was being given to other federal employees, “The average federal controller (at a GS_13 level, a common grade controller) earned $36,613, which was 18% less than private sector counterpart";[10] with the raise demanded, the average federal pay would have exceeded the private sector pay by 8%, along with better benefits and shorter working hours. However, because the offer did not include a shorter work week or earlier retirement, PATCO rejected the offer.[11]

    Source : en.wikipedia.org

    Reagan vs. Air Traffic Controllers

    Behind the scenes of how President Reagan handled the 1981 air traffic controllers strike

    Reagan vs. Air Traffic Controllers

    Reagan vs. Air Traffic Controllers REAGAN VS. AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS

    August 3, 1981: 'Tell them when the strike's over, they don't have any jobs'

    “They are in violation of the law, and if they do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated,” President Ronald Reagan said at a press conference on August 3, 1981, responding to a nationwide air traffic controllers’ strike. Members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), one of the few unions that endorsed Reagan during the election of 1980, were picketing for better pay and working conditions when about 13,000 of them walked off the job.

    Two days later, when most PATCO workers did not return, it became clear that Reagan was not bluffing. On August 5, he fired 11,345 of them, writing in his diary that day, “How do they explain approving of law breaking—to say nothing of violation of an oath taken by each a.c. [air controller] that he or she would not strike.”

    Reagan took no joy in doing it, however. The law was the law, and he believed public safety workers had no right to strike. It was the same approach Reagan’s hero Calvin Coolidge took when the Boston police went on strike in 1919.

    Reagan speaking at the Rose Garden, August 3, 1981

    The firing slowed commercial air travel for some time, but it didn't come to a grinding halt, thanks to the Federal Aviation Administration's work-around: Supervisors, non-striking controllers, and military controllers were able to fill in for the picketers, in short order handling 80 percent of what had been the prior workload. In the meantime, the FAA began the long process of hiring new controllers, taking years to reach pre–August 1981 staffing levels.

    The mass firing was a controversial move by Reagan, but one that members of his administration remember as an example of courage, as you can read in these excerpts from the Miller Center's extensive Reagan oral histories.

    Howard Baker, Jr.

    Senate majority leader; chief of staff

    The president, right off the bat, said, “Are they striking legally?” And the answer was, “No.” And he said, “That’s not the way people ought to work. Tell them when the strike’s over, they don’t have any jobs.” It was a very decisive move. It enhanced the power of the presidency significantly at that time. Most of the American people didn’t support the idea of a union that was a public service union and was legally barred from striking. They didn’t want them to strike. They didn’t want to support it. So we had the support of the vast majority of the American people.

    1981 meeting with Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver, Chief of Staff James Baker III, and Counselor to the President Ed Meese.

    Michael Deaver

    Deputy chief of staff

    I don’t think he thought of it as a seminal moment, but it turned out to be. It was interesting to me, because it goes right to this business about staff, and who’s making the decisions. I remember that morning in the Cabinet meeting—the Cabinet’s all around the table, and everybody had ideas, and Drew Lewis—who was [Secretary of] Transportation—and others were going back and forth across the table. I looked over at Reagan, because it dawned on me that he wasn’t saying anything. He was writing on his yellow pad, writing, writing, writing. This went on for about 15 minutes, and finally I heard him say, "Excuse me, fellows, but let me just read you something here. Tell me what you think about it." It was the statement he gave in the Rose Garden about half an hour later, word for word. Nobody changed anything. Everybody said, "Oh, yes, that’s great."

    But it wasn’t a surprise to me, because it had been a Reagan position in California when the firefighters, I think it was, went out. Reagan said, "A public employee does not have the right to strike. How can you strike against the public? They’re the people who hire you." He’d had that experience with teachers, saying, "They insist on the right to strike and tenure at the same time, how can you do this?" So it wasn’t a real surprise to me. I guess what was the surprise was that in this first example of his own action, it was pure Reagan, and it wasn’t changed in any way.

    Edwin Harper

    Assistant to the president for policy development; deputy director of OMB

    Well, one of the things that really impressed me was his courage. For example, the air traffic controllers strike: Calling their bluff on that was a real act of political courage. It took on a group that nobody had ever been willing to confront before. He did it with his eyes wide open and went ahead. It was Drew Lewis’ call in some ways, but Drew Lewis was not going to do this without Ronald Reagan’s permission—and I think that was a real act of political courage to do that. And it set the tone for a lot of other things.

    Senator Laxalt and Ronald Reagan, 1980

    Paul Laxalt

    Republican Senator from Nevada

    I was so proud of him. We all were when he stood firm. It wasn’t really surprising. They defied authority, and he wasn’t about to let them get by with it, not on his watch.

    Source : millercenter.org

    Looking Back On When President Reagan Fired The Air Traffic Controllers : NPR

    Thursday marks 40 years since former President Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers. That dealt a serious blow to the American labor movement.

    Looking Back On When President Reagan Fired The Air Traffic Controllers

    August 5, 20215:10 AM ET

    Heard on Morning Edition


    Thursday marks 40 years since former President Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers. That dealt a serious blow to the American labor movement.


    In 1981, President Ronald Reagan faced a test.


    RONALD REAGAN: This morning at 7 a.m., the union representing those who man America's air traffic control facilities called a strike.

    INSKEEP: The union represented around 13,000 people. And if you were on an airplane at the time, they were the most important people in the world.


    Yeah, they sure were. The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association (ph), PATCO, was protesting what they considered to be unfair wages and long work hours. They walked off the job. And two days later, on this day 40 years ago, Reagan fired more than 11,000 of those who hadn't crossed the picket line. And that dealt a serious blow to the American labor movement.

    INSKEEP: NPR's Planet Money produced a program about that event back in 2019. Reporters Kenny Malone and Julia Simon introduced us to one of the people who got fired on that day, Ron Palmer. Before the strike started, Palmer thought that Reagan was on his side.


    KENNY MALONE: Ron Palmer is watching this speech, watching this guy basically tell Ron, I don't care what kind of raise you and your colleagues want. If you don't get your butts in those little air traffic control towers in 48 hours...


    REAGAN: ...And will be terminated.

    MALONE: ...You are all fired.


    REAGAN: End of statement.

    RON PALMER: When he made that speech in that Rose Garden, I just felt betrayed, you know? You told us you were going to take care of this system and take care of us, and you didn't.

    JULIA SIMON: So this is Day 1 of the strike, and you might imagine that if the group of highly skilled people who are supposed to stop planes from crashing don't show up at work, that would essentially shut down the skies. But the government had a card up its sleeve.

    MALONE: The plan was if they could just find enough qualified people out in the world to cross picket lines and then climb up into those air traffic control towers, then maybe the planes could keep flying - or at least enough planes to show the strikers that they're not so irreplaceable after all. Donald Devine, Reagan's HR guy - he was part of this backup plan.

    DONALD DEVINE: We had to get more people. We had to steal them from the military controllers.

    SIMON: They were putting air traffic control students through accelerated tracks, trying to get them ready.

    DEVINE: We had to try to go to people who retired to come back.

    MALONE: The government was nervous, but on Day 1 of the strike, all these replacement air traffic controllers showed up to work. It wasn't enough to replace everybody. But by the end of the day, nearly half of all scheduled flights had flown - no crashes.


    SIMON: Day 2 of the strike, America is dancing to this amazing 1980s MORNING EDITION theme song.


    JACKIE JUDD: Good morning. No movement in the air controllers strike that has cut air traffic by almost half at the big airports.

    SIMON: And that morning, a seemingly small thing happened that made a huge difference in U.S. labor history.


    JUDD: ...August 4. And this is NPR's MORNING EDITION.

    SIMON: The skies were blue. That is the thing. In much of the country, little clouds, great visibility, ideal if you're, say, a replacement air traffic controller suddenly asked to land a bunch of big planes.


    CARL KASELL: Good morning. I'm Carl Kasell. According to Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis, the number of commercial airline flights has increased this morning from yesterday's 50% of normal to 75%.

    MALONE: So that was one thing working against the air traffic controller union's close-down-the-skies strategy. The other thing was Reagan's threat from the Rose Garden podium. Show up to work in the next 48 hours, or you're fired. He was giving air traffic controllers who needed their jobs an option. Or, from the perspective of the union's president, who spoke on NPR that day...


    ROBERT E POLI: They're trying to break the union. I think they are trying to use every intimidation factor that they can to get the controllers to go back to work.

    SIMON: Reagan's threat and his 48-hour amnesty were scary to people like Ron Palmer. As the 48-hour deadline came to a close, striking controllers around the country gathered together with their families. Ron was at the union hall in Miami.

    PALMER: We were solidarity. You know, it's - we were trying to be solid. We were singing. I got up and sang a couple of songs.

    SIMON: What'd you sing?

    PALMER: (Singing) Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

    MALONE: That moment the deadline passed, Ron and over 11,000 air traffic controllers who stayed on strike were officially fired.

    Source : www.npr.org

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