This Week in NATCA/Labor History
Tuesday, June 21, 2011


June 22, 1981 — Tentative agreement on PATCO contract:
Telephone polling of union halls across the nation conducted in the early hours of the morning indicates that less than 80 percent of controllers have voted to strike. About 5 a.m. Eastern time, Robert Poli tentatively agrees to the FAA’s “final” contract offer from Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis, despite knowing there is little union support for the contract provisions.

    Although controllers would still be required to work 40 hours, rather than a shortened week that they’d sought, the agency’s offer includes time-and-a-half pay after 36 hours. The proposed contract also raises the night differential from 10 percent to 15 percent and guarantees a 30-minute lunch break. At the time, supervisors required controllers to eat while on position if lunch breaks would leave too few controllers to handle the traffic.

June 23, 1981 — Air safety issue: The FAA announces it will proceed with testing and deploying the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System. The basic version of the computerized equipment, installed onboard airplanes, would work in conjunction with the air traffic control radar beacon system to alert pilots to nearby traffic. Advanced versions of TCAS would instruct pilots to climb or descend in a coordinated maneuver to avoid each other in the event of potential collisions.

    Similar systems had been under study since before a midair collision over the Grand Canyon on June 30, 1956. The accident, involving a Trans World Airlines Super Constellation and United DC-7 flying under visual flight rules, killed all 128 people aboard both planes.

    The tragedy was a factor in forming the Federal Aviation Agency (renamed in 1967), a significant modernization effort including computerized tracking systems in centers and TRACONs, and an expanded ATC system that constantly monitored all aircraft flying between 18,000 and 60,000 feet.

June 19, 1987 — NATCA is official: The FLRA officially certifies NATCA as a union.

June 18, 1989 — Controller benefits: The FAA launches a five-year Pay Demonstration Project providing a bonus of up to 20 percent of base pay to about 2,100 controllers, flight standards, and airways facilities workers at 11 hard-to-staff facilities in the New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Oakland areas.

June 19, 1997 — NATCA anniversary: The union holds a 10-year anniversary celebration, including a party at the U.S. Capitol. Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles declares June 19 Air Traffic Control Day, as does Manassas, Va., Miami, Milwaukee, New York City and Spokane, Wash. Many facilities hold open houses and other festivities.


1893: More than 8,000 people attend the dedication ceremony for The Haymarket Martyrs Monument in Chicago, honoring those framed and executed for the bombing at Haymarket Square on May 4, 1886. 

1938: Fair Labor Standards Act passes Congress, banning child labor and setting the 40-hour work week.

1941: At the urging of black labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, Franklin Roosevelt issues an executive order barring discrimination in defense industries.

1943: Congress passes the Smith-Connally War Labor Disputes Act over Pres. Franklin Roosevelt’s veto. It allows the federal government to seize and operate industries threatened by strikes that would interfere with war production. It was hurriedly created after the third coal strike in seven weeks.