(PATCO - After this, Union Busting became trendy)
Today's episode puts us in August 2, 1981, literally hours before the members of PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) voted to go on strike. It features a Face The Nation interview with Senate Majority leader Howard Baker, brought out to do spin and denial that the Reagan administration had anything other than killing off this union in mind.
George Herman (CBS News): "Does this kind of government pressure historically play a successful role in ending strikes amicably and getting us back to work?"
Howard Baker: "No, they don’t. There’s a very poor record of judicial . . . maximum judicial effort to end strikes. But there’s also a precedent involved here that we’ve not dealt with before and that is, an avowed purpose of striking by Federal employees, who in this case are forbidden to strike by statute. And the reason for that is not capricious, the reason is the public safety, and to a remarkable extent the social welfare of t his country and its economic health depends on the air traffic controller. It depends on the ability of the air traffic network in this country to function. I would not favor frankly, arresting and jailing people who do not abide by the requirement of the law. But with the same token, short of that, I think the government should do everything that is necessary to make clear that we will not stand by and see the law violated, that we will not stand by and see the economy disrupted; the social fabric of this country rent, because the air traffic controllers will not go back to work, or will not stay at work. Now, they have grievances, they’ve got problems and I’m sympathetic. But they are holding a club of enormous weight and proportion over the head of America and they simply mustn’t do that."
The Air Traffic controllers had a legitimate beef - they wanted a 32 hour work week, rather than 40 because the pressure of maintaining a level of alertness essential to doing the job was crucial. And a full 40 hours took its toll and created a lot of unsafe scenarios.
In hindsight, it would almost seem the Reagan Administration had used this as a test case in their Union Busting campaign. Unions, along with regulations were a hindrance to the Reagan Administration. Over the next 8 years there would be a dismantling of just about every regulation that stood in the way of unbridled greed and corruption. It's important to realize the state our country and economy are now in are not the exclusive property of the Bush Administration - the roots and fundamentals go back to the 1980's, and most likely well before to the Nixon Administration. But it was The Reagan Years that created ultimately the most damage. PATCO was the first of many episodes. And of course, the outcome was not successful. But that's our next installment.
In addition to Face The Nation, I also tacked on The World This Week from CBS News, covering the events of the week of August 2, 1981. It appears to have been a rather busy week!