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[Excerpt] In his article "The Rise and Demise of PATCO" (Northrup 1984), Herbert Northrup presents a narrow and misleading explanation of the ill-fated air traffic controllers' strike of 1981. Northrup's thesis is that the goal of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike was to establish the right to bargain over wages within a private sector framework. He attributes the failure of the strike to the union's inept leadership and praises the Reagan administration for its firm response to the challenge presented by PATCO.

Although most of the facts he reports are accurate, Northrup omits crucial information regarding the management style of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the internal dynamics of PATCO. Based on this additional information, we will argue that PATCO'S primary goal was to address the work-related problems of the rank-and-file specifically by reducing the work week and improving the retirement system; that the primary cause of the strike was rank-and- file frustration with autocratic management; and that the Reagan administration joined forces with career FAA managers to destroy PATCO without giving sufficient consideration to less drastic alternatives.


Suggested Citation
Hurd, R. W. & Kriesky, J. K. (1986). “The rise and demise of PATCO” Reconstructed [Electronic version]. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 40(1), 115-122.

Required Publisher Statement
Reprinted with permission of Cornell University.