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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Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America by Joseph A. McCartin

On August 3, 1981, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, representing 12,000 federal employees, called an illegal strike. Ronald Reagan, president for less than seven months, fired the strikers, establishing a reputation for prompt resolution, not to mention hostility toward organized labor. But as Joseph A. McCartin writes, the PATCO strike was much more than a single, turning-point labor dispute. It was the culmination years of high-stakes conflict, recurrent airline disasters, and the tragic struggles of individual air traffic controllers whose actions repeatedly saved lives, but who could not save their union. The fall of PATCO not only ushered in a long period of labor decline, but served as a harbinger for the current campaign against public sector unions that now roils American politics.
In Collision Course, McCartin sets the PATCO strike within a vivid panorama of the rise and near fall of the world's busiest air-traffic control system. He begins with an arresting account of the mid-air collision over Park Slope, Brooklyn, on December 16, 1960, that cost 134 lives and disillusioned controllers. Through the stories of controllers like Mike Rock and Jack Maher, who were galvanized into action by the Brooklyn disaster and went on to found PATCO, McCartin describes the intense camaraderie, professionalism, and ambition of those who sought to make the airways safer and their jobs less stressful while at the same time pushing their way into the middle class. Collision Course tells a story of escalating confrontation, political intrigue, and post-1960s generational conflict. Most of all, it tells the story of Reagan and the controllers, whose surprising courtship in the 1980 election led PATCO to endorse the Republican on the promise that he would address controllers' grievances. That brief fateful alliance triggered devastating miscalculations that changed the course of history, establishing patterns that still govern America's labor politics.
Gripping, incisive, written with an eye for detail and a grasp of the vast consequences of PATCO conflict for both air travel and America's working class, Collision Course is a stunning achievement.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199836789
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 10/06/2011
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 504
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(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. His books include Labor's Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy and the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, 1912-21, which won the 1999 Philip Taft Labor History Book Award for the best book on U.S. labor history.

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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.
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