This Week in NATCA/Labor History
Thursday, November 17, 2011


November 13, 1985 — ABC News devotes its program “Nightline” to air traffic control, representing the first major television broadcast about the topic since media coverage of the strike ended. Reporter Jack Smith notes there are 1,000 per flights a day now than in 1981. During the same time, the number of journeymen controllers has dropped from 13,311 to 8,315 while near misses have climbed from 359 in 1981 to 592 to date in 1985. “By every measure available, the system today is strained and controllers are under more stress,” Smith says.

In an extensive debate, Howie Barte challenges FAA Administrator Donald Engen’s contention that the FAA is sufficiently staffed with controllers and says management hasn’t changed since the strike. Joe O’Brien from New York TRACON and two unidentified controllers also appear briefly on the program, along with New York Republican Rep. Guy Molinari. The congressman announces that he intends to deliver a letter to President Reagan signed by more than 70 members of the House requesting reinstatement for some of the fired controllers.

Engen subsequently meets twice with Barte and several other controllers to discuss working conditions.


1881: Trade unions form the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Organizations, later becoming the AFL. Under the leadership of Cigar Makers President Samuel Gompers and Peter McGuire of the Carpenters, the AFL becomes the most influential labor organization in the nation. The Federation of Trades and Labor Unions' founding convention is held in Pittsburgh. It urges enactment of employer liability, compulsory education, uniform apprenticeship and child and convict labor laws. Five years later it changes its name to the American Federation of Labor.