Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America

Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America

by Joseph A. McCartin


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In August 1981, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) called an illegal strike. The new president, Ronald Reagan, fired the strikers, establishing a reputation for both decisiveness and hostility to organized labor. As Joseph A. McCartin writes, the strike was the culmination of two decades of escalating conflict between controllers and the government that stemmed from the high-pressure nature of the job and the controllers' inability to negotiate with their employer over vital issues. PATCO's fall not only ushered in a long period of labor decline; it also served as a harbinger of the campaign against public sector unions that now roils American politics.

Now available in paperback, Collision Course sets the strike within a vivid panorama of the rise of the world's busiest air-traffic control system. It begins with an arresting account of the 1960 midair collision over New York that cost 134 lives and exposed the weaknesses of an overburdened system. Through the stories of controllers like Mike Rock and Jack Maher, who were galvanized into action by that disaster and went on to found PATCO, it describes the efforts of those who sought to make the airways safer and fought to win a secure place in the American middle class. It climaxes with the story of Reagan and the controllers, who surprisingly endorsed the Republican on the promise that he would address their grievances. That brief, fateful alliance triggered devastating miscalculations that changed America, forging patterns that still govern the nation's labor politics.

Written with an eye for detail and a grasp of the vast consequences of the PATCO conflict for both air travel and America's working class, Collision Course is a stunning achievement.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199325207
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 09/01/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 504
Sales rank: 514,042
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Joseph A. McCartin is Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University and Director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Getting the Picture
1. The Main Bang
2. Pushing Back
3. Wheels Up
4. Confliction
5. Course Correction
6. Flight Ceiling
7. Turbulence
8. Down the Tubes
9. Pilot Error
10. Dead Reckoning
11. Trading Paint
12. Aluminum Rain
13. Debris Field
Epilogue: Black Box

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Collision Course 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My husband was a developmental controller at the Indianapolis Center in 1981, and went on strike with PATCO. He was not rehired. This book is very readable, tells the history of PATCO and its relationship with the government, and gives detailed information about events surrounding the strike that we never knew.
ChasBrad More than 1 year ago
In 1981 I was (and still am) a FAA employee. I worked at JFK as an Electro Mechanical Technician so I was always around Air Traffic Controllers and got to know quite a few of them. I liked this book because it brought back memories of the times, the reasons and the results of the strike and it's aftermath. Leading up to the day of the strike, I remember how confident the union members were that they would prevail in their quest. I remember the picket lines, the minute by minute news coverage and the shock and disbelief when the President fired all the strikers. I watched the FAA rebuild the Air Traffic System and listened to stories of broken lives as a result of the strike. An older Air Traffic Controller resently recommended I read this book since he also lived through those times. I'm glad I bought it. For me it was a trip back to thirty years ago and in my mind I can see all the places that no longer exist (such as the NY Common IFR/Hanger 11 and the old JFK Control Tower) and remember the names that were part of our every day lives way back when. For you, its a time capsule, a look into the interaction and struggle between employers and unions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago