November 6, 2011

WHY REAGAN DESERVES AS MUCH CREDIT AS VOLCKER FOR THE DEFLATIONARY EPOCH:

A New President, and a Union's Last Stand : a review of Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike That Changed America by Joseph A. McCartin  (BRYAN BURROUGH, 11/06/11, NY Times Book Review)

That, Mr. McCartin shows, was the final straw for Patco militants. The union's president was overthrown in a boardroom coup, making way for hard-liners to take over. For these men -- and they were almost all white men -- the union's long string of defeats was too much to stomach. They began itching for a strike well before the 1981 contract talks. A network known in the union as "the Choirboys" emerged to begin spreading the gospel of a strike, never mind that any strike would be illegal. "In the eyes of many union members," Mr. McCartin writes, "the Patco fight concerned a fundamental human right: the freedom all workers should have to strike in protest of their conditions."

By and large, the new Reagan administration took little notice of Patco. The union had endorsed Mr. Reagan in the 1980 election, after cutting a closed-doors deal in which Reagan advisers, while promising few specifics, made it clear they would look kindly on union demands. But Patco leadership emboldened by the deal, demanded pay raises. In June 1981, Mr. Reagan actually gave in, granting the union what Mr. McCartin shows was possibly the most generous set of concessions made to a federal public employee union in government history.

It wasn't enough. The rank and file rejected the deal, setting the stage for a strike that, in retrospect, had little to do with salary. This was about respect, about a deep-seated anger at years of perceived humiliation at the hands of F.A.A. supervisors. It was only after the union rejected the government's offers, Mr. McCartin demonstrates, that Mr. Reagan took his historic hard line. Any controllers who struck, he vowed, would be fired. And they were fired, in the thousands. Supervisors and military controllers filled in, and replacements would be trained and hired. For the most part, the public applauded while unions cringed. The cause of organized labor was set back years, if not decades.



Posted by at November 6, 2011 8:18 AM
  

blog comments powered by Disqus
« CAN'T BE ANYBODY IF ROBERT WORTH'S NEVER HEARD OF HIM: | Main | NOTHING COSTS MORE THAN IT USED TO: »