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NATCA Honors Sacrifice of PATCO Controllers on 30th Anniversary of 1981 Strike - (8/3/2011)

CONTACT: Doug Church, 301-346-8245

WASHINGTON – Thirty years ago today, 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.

Nearly 13,000 controllers – about 85 percent of the union’s membership and 79 percent of the workforce – honored the picket line. 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 Transportation Department, staffing dropped 74 percent—from 16,375 to about 4,200.

Today, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association pauses to remember the sacrifice that these PATCO controllers made in the name of safety. NATCA was born from the ashes of this watershed moment in labor history and officially was certified on June 19, 1987 as the exclusive bargaining unit representative for FAA controllers.

Said NATCA President Paul Rinaldi, “In the years that followed the strike, many thought that the firing of the controllers and the decertification of PATCO had settled the issues for which these dedicated controllers had fought. Yet, just six years after the strike, NATCA was certified and began representing the FAA controllers. Those original NATCA members organized for the very same reasons that more than 11,000 controllers were fired – better working conditions and an intense dedication to the safety and integrity of the National Airspace System (NAS).”

Added NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert: “Today, and every day, we remember the PATCO members, both in our workforce now and those that are not. They demonstrated extreme solidarity and commitment and showed the way for those of us in NATCA that came after them and found a system still suffering from the same problems that PATCO fought to try and fix.

“We will never forget the sacrifices of those that came before us. The pride, passion and sense of ownership in the air traffic control system are engrained in our DNA. The NAS is our sacred trust as controllers and PATCO controllers honored that trust and passed it on to us.”

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