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The 1981 PATCO Strike

Forty years ago, in August 1981, over 12,000 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) walked off the job after contract negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) broke down. President Ronald Reagan ordered them to return to work, and after 48 hours fired those who did not (Schalch).

PATCO was established in 1968 (Schalch, Lippert). During the 1970s, it was successful in using a series of slowdowns and sick-outs to gain retirement and retraining benefits for its members, air traffic controllers employed by the federal government, who were both at least 50 years old and had worked for at least 20 years (Lippert). In the 1980 presidential election, PATCO endorsed Reagan, who had previously been the president of the¬†Screen Actors Guild, in his successful bid to defeat incumbent President Jimmy Carter. In a letter to PATCO president Robert Poli in October 1980, Reagan wrote “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” (Pardlo).

History Site

In August 1981, over 12,000 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) walked off the job after contract negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) broke down.

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