Reagan The Union Buster
Reagan remembered for new era of union-busting
from Workday Minnesota
As memorial events are held this week for the late President Ronald Reagan, journalists, pundits and others are evaluating his legacy. Among labor activists, his presidency will be remembered as the start of a new era of union-busting.
His actions highlighted a little known union – PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization – and exposed weaknesses in the labor movement that put unions on the defensive throughout the 1980s.
PATCO was one of a small handful of unions that endorsed Reagan in his bid to defeat incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1980. But just months after Reagan took office, PATCO members found that support meant nothing.
Faced with the longest working hours of any air traffic controllers in the world, PATCO members sought to relieve the stress of their jobs through changes in their union contract with the Federal Aviation Administration. Their main demands centered on safer working conditions, including a 32-hour workweek, updated computer equipment and retirement after 20 years of service.
When the Reagan administration balked at these demands, PATCO called a strike. Federal employees however, are forbidden by law to walk off their jobs. On the first day of the strike on Aug. 3, 1981, some 15,000 controllers went out, causing the cancellation of thousands of airline flights across the country. Two days later, Reagan fired the striking controllers.
Socialist Worker Online discusses the Lessons of PATCO Strike.