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Controller Strike of 1981
Bob Saget
Utah Valley University

The PATCO strike of 1981 was a turning point for labor relations in the United States. Labor and management went head to head in one of the most famous strikes in the history of our country. In the end, labor lost, and thousands of controllers were fired for standing up for their profession. I believe the controllers were wronged and terminated unfairly. Every worker should have a right to better their profession and collectively bargain for their job. We will first look at the events that led up to the strike and then discuss the outcome from the controller’s perspective as I believe they were in the right.
The major concerns of the union leading up to the strike included pay, benefits, and schedule. The union cited safety for a reduced work week that would be 32 hours long. They also wanted a pay increase and better retirement benefits. Negotiations began in February but stalled shortly after. On August 3rd, 1981, 13,000 PATCO members go on strike due to unsuccessful contract negotiations. Management did try to negotiate with the controllers offering a pay raise, however the union did not view the other improvements as satisfactory. The union and its members were willing to participate in what was considered an illegal strike for a couple different reasons. The union was just coming down off of many major victories for their workers over the past decade. PATCO leaders thought they had an excellent position for the upcoming contract negotiations. When they didn’t get what they wanted, they felt as if the FAA would cave into their demands again if met with force. Another reason they were willing to participate in the strike was because previous government workers before them struck without consequences. They could have never imagined the outcomes might be so different.
I believe...

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