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Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Strike Files [Series V]

 Series
Identifier: L1986-45_05

Scope and Content of Series V: Strike Files

The Strike Files contain (1972-1985) correspondence, press clippings, legal papers, membership memoranda, organizational papers, and other strike-related materials (1977 - 1982). Also included is extensive material regarding PATCO’s strike plans. These documents cover PATCO’s creation of a strike fund as well as creation of a highly organized cluster communication system to allow the union to continue functioning while unable to access the workplace.

In addition to the strike preparation materials, this series also includes correspondence between membership and the central office. This correspondence covers logistical matters, intelligence on how the FAA’s replacement plan was working, and the impact the strike was having on air safety. Lastly, this series contains extensive correspondence relating to PATCO’s efforts to help out-of-work controllers find new jobs in other fields, despite the legal road blocks thrown their way by the United States government.

A significant part of this series is made up of legal documents dealing with the long running fight between PATCO and the United States government.

Dates

  • 1957-1985

Creator

Restrictions on Access

Access to materials with personal or sensitive information has been restricted. Please consult with archivist for more information about accessing these records.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

To quote in print, or otherwise reproduce in whole or in part in any publication, including on the Worldwide Web, any material from this collection, the researcher must obtain permission from (1) the owner of the physical property and (2) the holder of the copyright. Persons wishing to quote from this collection should consult the reference archivist to determine copyright holders for information in this collection. Reproduction of any item must contain the complete citation to the original. All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.
This collection is stored off-site. Contact archivist in advance to view these materials; 24-hour notice is required.

History of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization

The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) was formed in the New York area in 1968 to represent the interests of federally employed air traffic controllers. The objectives of the organization were to preserve and promote the profession; to improve working conditions for air traffic controllers within the United States, its territories, and possessions; and to represent its members in dealing with the Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other agencies concerning grievances, personnel policies, practices and other matters. In 1981, though as federal employees it was illegal for them to do so, PATCO members went on strike. Over 11,000 controllers were subsequently dismissed.

Wages, work hours, and retirement were the significant issues for the PATCO rank and file in their 1981 negotiation with the FAA. Members wanted an across-the-board $10,000 salary increase (base pay for a controller was then $20,462). PATCO President Robert Poli also wanted the 40-hour five-day week reduced to a 32-hour four-day week without a decrease in salary. Controllers deemed the shorter work week their most important issue, because they hoped it would reduce the on-the-job stress that many of them experienced. They also wanted a change in retirement requirements because they claimed that controllers experienced "burn out" faster than other federal employees. The government refused to discuss the last two demands. An agreement was reached by June 22 that called for a 10% pay hike for controllers, a 20% increase in the nighttime work pay differential, and a guaranteed 30-minute lunch period. Though Poli had managed to get a few more benefits, he felt the overall package was not enough. When it went to a vote, 95% of his members rejected the pact. Though the two sides went back to the bargaining table on July 31, neither seemed willing to budge. On August 3, 1981, the 15,000-member Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization went on strike.

Because PATCO members were responsible for guiding commercial airline flights throughout the United States, the strike caused confusion, long delays, and worries about air travel safety. Furthermore, as federal employees, PATCO members by law were not permitted to strike. On August 5, the federal government issued dismissal notices to over 11,000 controllers who refused to return to their jobs. To President Ronald Reagan, the air traffic controllers had quit their jobs by striking illegally. Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis said, "To all intents and purposes, the strike is over. Our concern is to rebuild the system."

On August 6, a federal judge imposed a fine of $2.4 million per day (later reduced) on PATCO as long as the strike lasted. The government also obtained a court order that barred the union from using its $3.7 million strike contingency fund and began proceedings to have it decertified. Union members and other unionists claimed that the government was union busting. New workers were quickly trained and installed as air traffic controllers and in October, PATCO was decertified and dissolved. The PATCO strike and firing was one of the most significant and controversial episodes involving the American labor movement during the era.

On August 12, 1993, President Bill Clinton, by an executive order, lifted the ban on rehiring PATCO controllers who had been fired twelve years earlier.

Presidents of PATCO

1969-1970
James E. Hayes
1970-1980
John F. Leyden
1980-1982
Robert E. Poli
1982
Gary W. Eads

Executive Vice Presidents

1972-1980
Robert E. Poli
1980-1982
Robert E. Meyers
1982
Domenic Torchia

Extent

11.26 Linear Feet (in 27 boxes)

Abstract

The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) was formed in 1968 to represent the interests of federally employed air traffic controllers and was dissolved in 1981, after a strike against the United States government resulted in all PATCO members being fired from their Federal Aviation Administration jobs. This finding aid (number 5 of 18) describes Series V, Strike Files, 1972-1985 (11.25 linear feet of records in 27 boxes), which documents the strike and its planning, including PATCO's communications system and strike fund.

Organization of the Records

This finding aid describes Series V: Strike files. The Strike files make up part of the larger PATCO records which are divided into 18 series (each with its own finding aid).

Location

Collecton is stored offsite. Contact archivist in advance to view these materials; 24-hour notice is required.

Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records

The PATCO records are divided into 18 series, each with its own finding aid, for ease of use and access.

Other Series

  1. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, President's files [L1986-45_01]
  2. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Executive Vice President's files [L1986-45_02]
  3. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Regional Vice President's files [L1986-45_03]
  4. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Director's files [L1986-45_04]
  5. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Central Office Files [L1986-45_06]
  6. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Membership Files [L1986-45_07]
  7. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Financial records [L1986-45_08]
  8. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Conventions [L1986-45_09]
  9. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Arbitration and Grievances [L1986-45_10]
  10. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Region and Locals [L1986-45_11]
  11. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Accident files [L1986-45_12]
  12. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Safety and Health files [L1986-45_13]
  13. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Public Relations and Newsclippings [L1986-45_14]
  14. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Publications [L1986-45_15]
  15. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Legislative files [L1986-45_16]
  16. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Subject files [L1986-45_17]
  17. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Legal files {L1986-45_18]

Custodial History

Following PATCO's bankruptcy declaration in 1982, a court-appointed trustee took custody of its records. In 1985, the bankruptcy trustee authorized the records' transfer to PATCO Local 159 for historical preservation. Terrence A. Shannon of Local 159, in consultation with the Southern Labor Archives, retrieved approximately 1000 cubic feet of records from storage in Washington, D.C.

Acquisition Information

Records donated by Terrence A. Shannon of PATCO, Local 159 (Savannah, Ga.), 1986.

Digital Access

This series is one of nine series that have been digitized in full and are available in the GSU Library's digital collections (http://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/PATCO)

Related Archival Materials

Related Materials in Other Repositories

  1. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) Records, 1970-1981 (2009-77). Special Collections, University of Texas at Arlington Library.
  2. PATCO Records for the Southwest Region, 1968-1986 (AR291). Special Collections, University of Texas at Arlington Library.
  3. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) Records, Local 332, Kansas City, Missouri, 1971-1987 (AR397). Special Collections, University of Texas at Arlington Library.
  4. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization Records, Local 601, Anchorage, Alaska, 1968-1988 (AR389). Special Collections, University of Texas at Arlington Library.
  5. Arthur B. Shostak Collection, 1974-1992 (AR374). Special Collections, University of Texas at Arlington Library.
  6. George Brandon Papers, 1968-1982 (AR293). Special Collections, University of Texas at Arlington Library.

Processing Information

Following the acquisition of the PATCO records in 1986, Southern Labor Archives staff created an organizational scheme and identified a large portion of the records for deaccession. In 2001, Series I through IV were processed by Pam Hackbart-Dean and Annie L. Tilden. Series I-IV electronic finding aid created by Morna Gerrard, September 2002; revised by William Hardesty, February 2006.

In 2008-09, Series V through XVIII were processed by Harold V. Hansen, Jr. and George Rounds according to a revised organization. More material was deaccessioned or transferred to print collections during the completion of the project. Series V-XVII electronic finding aids created by Traci JoLeigh Drummond, February 2010; EAD revised by Harold Victor Hansen, Jr., 2016.
Title
Records of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization at Georgia State University:
Subtitle
A Guide to the PATCO Records, Series V: Strike Files
Status
Completed
Author
Georgia State University Library
Date
February 2010
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Contact:
100 Decatur St., S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
404-413-2880
404-413-2881 (Fax)