NATCA Honors Sacrifice of PATCO Controllers on 31st Anniversary of 1981 Strike
Thursday, August 02, 2012

On Aug. 3, 1981, the men and women of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), in their fight for a safer work environment, reliable equipment, adequate staffing levels and fair work and pay rules, took a courageous stand and began a strike in fierce support of these goals and for the profession they so dearly loved. Today, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) remembers the sacrifice they made.

Nearly 13,000 controllers – about 85 percent of the union’s membership and 79 percent of the workforce – honored the picket lines. Two days later, they were fired. In all, 11,350 controllers lost their jobs. About 875 returned to work before the firings. According to the Department of Transportation, staffing dropped 74 percent—from 16,375 to about 4,200.

Said NATCA President Paul Rinaldi, “PATCO controllers made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the air traffic control profession and today, especially, we honor that. While the administration thought they could diminish the efforts of the nation’s air traffic controllers, the organization and certification of NATCA six years later – while the same administration was still in office – proved otherwise.”

“Today we remember how the PATCO members demonstrated an extraordinary level of commitment to their profession, to their goals and to each other," said NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert. "They showed the way for those of us in NATCA who came after them. Their efforts were not lost, as NATCA’s original members organized for the same reasons that the more than 11,000 controllers were fired—better working conditions and dedication to the safety and integrity of the National Airspace System.”

Click here to watch video from the NATCA 2012 Denver Convention of the history of PATCO, the presentation by “Collision Course” author and Georgetown University Professor Joseph McCartin and the emotional remarks from the convention floor from Bob Butterworth.

Click here to view and buy McCartin’s book.