The Pressures Of Patco Strikes And Stress

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The Pressures Of Patco- Strikes And Stress In The Essay, Research Paper The Pressures of PATCO: Strikes and Stress in the 1980sOn August 3, 1981 almost 13,000 air traffic controllers went on strike after months of negotiations with the federal government. During the contract talks, Robert Poli, president of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association (PATCO), explained the union’s three major demands as a $10,000 across the board raise, a 32-hour workweek (down from 40), and a better retirement package. While the press and hearings in Congress focused almost exclusively on the demand for a pay raise, certain commentators recognized that the air controllers’ walkout was not solely, or even primarily, an economic issue. Newsweek noted that “controllers concede

that their chief complaint is not money but hours, working conditions, and a lack of recognition for the pressures they face.” Time wrote that the 32-hour week was “a reduction that the controllers seem to want more than the pay increases. . . . most PATCO members see this issue as the key to lowering their on-the- job anxieties and enhancing safety.” One striker later explained that the $10,000 demand “was always negotiable; anyone who believed it would come to pass was dreaming. Of primary importance to most was a reduced work week and an achievable retirement.” 1 Such views had little effect on negotiations; 48 hours after the walkout, President Reagan fired the 11,350 ATCs (almost 70% of the workforce) who had not returned to work. In case the message was still

unclear, he declared a lifetime ban on the rehiring of the strikers by the FAA.The dramatic circumstances surrounding the strike attracted much commentary, at the time and subsequently. This attention, however, for the most part, failed to uncover or illuminate the fundamental issue under contention: control of the workplace. A study of the relationship over several years between air traffic controllers and their employer, the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), and the language, reasoning, and actions used by controllers both before and after the strike, as well as the FAA’s responses, 2 reveals the centrality of this fight which has traditionally characterized strong labor action in the past. Despite the assertions of many that the issue of control has little relevance in the

“modern” high-tech workplace and has been superseded by other concerns, it was the galvanizing force behind many controller protests over the years and led to the explosion in 1981 with the strike. Indeed, instead of a redefinition of workplace relations in the twentieth century, the same struggle over control continues, only in less evident, and perhaps more dangerous, ways.Historians have long debated whether workplace control is still a key issue in late twentieth century management-worker relations. Many scholars and much of society have surmised that the development of new technology and modes of production would alter the terms of, or even eliminate, this conflict. The rapidly changing character of world markets and new economic and technological advances would preclude

the usefulness of the traditional adversarial relationship fostered by unions and managers at the point of production and replace it with a participative model which reduced the need for work rules, grievance systems, and wage standards. With the restructuring of the workplace as a “caring community,” traditional dissatisfaction would “dissolve in an atmosphere of unity and good feeling” and do away with conflict and division. New technology would allow workers to perform more creative, useful, and interesting tasks; reduce hazards at the workplace; and even lead to less hours and more leisure time. 3Harry Braverman, in his classic book Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974), disputed this optimistic view of change in the twentieth century workplace. He instead presented work