August 4, 2006


Remembering the day the strike died (Joseph A. McCartin, August 1, 2006, Chicago Tribune)

This week will mark the 25th anniversary of a turning point in American economic history. On Aug. 3, 1981, some 12,000 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization walked off their jobs directing the nation's air traffic for the Federal Aviation Administration. Defying laws that prohibited federal workers from striking, PATCO members tried to force the government to negotiate over demands for a shorter work week and higher pay. President Ronald Reagan responded with an ultimatum: If the controllers did not return to work within 48 hours, Reagan promised to fire them. When more than 11,000 strikers decided to test Reagan's resolve, they lost their jobs and their union.

With the PATCO episode, American labor relations entered a new era. In the years after 1981, a number of prominent private sector employers followed Reagan's lead and permanently replaced their own strikers. The stiffened resistance to collective bargaining that became evident in the 1980s accelerated organized labor's decline.

Twenty-five years later, union leaders have yet to reverse that slide.

Had Ronald Reagan done nothing else, breaking the unions alone would have made him one of the most significant presidents of the 20th Century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 4, 2006 10:45 PM

Hopefully the current president will remember this example and break public sector unions as well.

Posted by: mcf at August 4, 2006 11:12 PM

We haven't had many crippling* strikes since then either. The unions are waiting out Bush just like the rest of the leftoid world.

*I mean, of course, disabling, the new-speak word of day.

Posted by: erp at August 5, 2006 9:04 AM

I believe Congress bought off the flight controllers union a few months ago with raises that make the average salary around $160,000 (includes overtime). There wasn't a strike, so the Executive Branch didn't get involved.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 5, 2006 9:45 AM

The big mystery is why the AFL-CIO hasn't bothered to learn Spanish.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 5, 2006 1:28 PM