Monday, January 09, 2012
The Traffic Controllers
And the strike that Changed America
By Joseph A. McCartin
By Richard Edward Noble
I would guess that this is the most definitive history of the Traffic Controllers’ Strike yet to be written. Knowing what I know of American Labor History, it will probably be the only History of the Traffic Controllers’ Strike of 1981 that will ever be written.
I commend Mr. Joseph A. McCartin for performing this thankless and laborious task. Since I have become somewhat of a Labor history buff in recent years, this book will be added to my reference library along side the many others that I have been collecting for the last several years.
The history of American Labor problems in America is extremely limited and information difficult to find. The Reagan administration’s discontinuance of government statistical strike data will guarantee the difficulty of that task in future years.
I wrote my own book on the subject. It is entitled “America on Strike” and it is a survey of many prominent Labor strikes throughout American History. It begins in the Colonial period and ends with Ronald Reagan and the Traffic Controllers’ Strike. I ended my book with the Traffic Controllers’ Strike because like this author I figured it to be a big historical confrontation and devastating to the American Labor Movement.
My synopsis of the strike is a mere five pages long. I couldn’t find very much information on the Controllers’ Strike when I was putting my book together so when I saw this book, I jumped on it.
The author covers the formation of the PATCO union or association from its start in 1968 until it disintegration in 1981.
The book is thorough and informative. It is written from an inside the union perspective as opposed to an inside the Reagan administration perspective.
I couldn’t have asked for a more in depth analysis.
The history of the union and its leaders is covered intimately while all the while a focus is kept on the big confrontation with Ronald Reagan and his radical rightwing cohorts.
I will restrain myself from criticizing or picking arguments with the author other than to say, I feel he was a bit too kind and overly understanding of President Reagan and his administration.
That the president was hypocritical in his position against PATCO I consider a given.
That the goal of his administration was union busting is also a given. It is the confirmed historical position of the Republican Party and it cannot be denied in my opinion.
That the union was justified in all of its early positions is and has been substantiated.
The fact that the scabs who replaced the 15,000 fired workers no sooner got settled in than they formed their own union and petitioned the government with the exact same complaints the leaders of the PATCO union had presented, says it all.
Like his hero, Calvin Coolidge, the Reagan administration acted politically and not for the interest of his country. Coolidge and Reagan both benefited from their immoral political shenanigans quite favorably while the country suffered immensely – especially so with the Reagan fiasco.
Reagan used taxpayer dollars to fight tax paying workers in this flagrant union busting action. This cost the American people not just millions … but billions.
His use of replacement scab labor revived a horror from the past that if pursued by the Controllers in the traditional labor management format could have resulted in the loss of many lives.
An historical “gentleman’s” agreement had been set in place with regards to this issue. Reagan, in defying this understanding proved himself to be no gentleman and opened a kettle of worms that could and may ignite still glowing embers of acute bitterness in the historical oven of a seriously violent past. Be forewarned, this could mean the start of something BAD.
The Boston Police strike and President Coolidge’s stand remain a national historical disgrace.
Reagan and his posturing will be added to that historical disgrace, I have no doubt.
So other than the author somewhat leaning over backward in his analysis of the Reagan administration, I enjoyed the book immensely.
Mr. McCartin’s analysis on what could have been done by the union to possibly guarantee a successful outcome is thought provoking, thorough and should be read by all union activists and organizers still pursuing that difficult and heroic task today.
This is a very well written and extremely informative Labor history book. I highly recommend it.