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Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Series VII: Membership Files

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Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records

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Records of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization at Georgia State University:

A Guide to the PATCO Records, Series VII: Membership Files

Georgia State University
Georgia State University Library
Special Collections and Archives
100 Decatur St., SE
Atlanta, GA 30303-3202
Fax: 404-413-2881

February 2010

Profile Description

Creation: EAD version 2002 finding aid created in XMetaL 4.5 by Traci JoLeigh Drummond, February 27, 2010.
Language: English

Collection Summary

Repository: Georgia State University Library, Special Collections and Archives, Atlanta
Creator:Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (Washington, D. C.)
Title:Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records
Dates: 1957-1985
Quantity: 204.75 linear 517 boxes
Abstract:The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) was formed in 1968 to represent the interests of federally employed air traffic controllers and was dissolved in 1981, after a strike against the United States government resulted in all PATCO members being fired from their Federal Aviation Administration jobs. This finding aid (number 7 of 18) describes Series VII, Membership Files, 1971-1981 (20 linear feet of records in 73 boxes), from the the administrative office in Washington, D.C.
Identification: L1986-45

Organization of the Records

The records are organized in to 18 series.
Series I: President's Files
Series II: Vice President's Files
Series III: Regional Vice President's Files
Series IV: Director's Files
Series V: Strike Files
Series VI: Central Office Files
Series VII: Membership Files [Detailed Description below]
Series VIII: Financial Records
Series IX: Conventions
Series X: Arbitration and Grievances
Series XI: Regions and Locals
Series XII: Accident Files
Series XIII: Safety and Health Files
Series XIV: Public Relations and News clippings
Series XV: Publications
Series XVI: Legislative Files
Series XVII: Subject Files
Series XVIII: Legal Files

Scope and Content Series VII: Membership Files

The membership series (1970-1981) contains correspondence, personnel files, questionnaires, membership applications, and membership master files. This series includes two major components, membership questionnaires and master files. The membership-wide questionnaires detail the average controller’s perspectives on work-related questions leading up to the strike from 1978 to 1981. The master files (1979-1981) are large, bit-matrix printout membership lists. They cover PATCO’s entire lifespan, and give detailed information of the make-up of the organization’s membership over time.

History of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization

The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) was born in the New York area in 1968 to represent the interests of federally employed air traffic controllers. The objective of the organization was to preserve and promote, to improve the working conditions for air traffic controllers within the United States, its territories and possessions, and to represent its members in dealing with the Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies concerning grievances, personnel policies, practices and other matters.

On August 3, 1981, the 15,000-member Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) went on strike. The PATCO members were responsible for guiding commercial airlines through their flights throughout the United States. The strike caused confusion, long delays, and worries about air travel safety. Because PATCO members were federal employees, their strike was illegal, and the federal government replied on August 5th by issuing dismissal notices to the approximately 12,000 controllers who refused to return to their jobs.

A tentative contract was reached in June with the FAA but was rejected by union members by more than 20 to 1. The issues that mattered to rank and file union members were wages, work hours, and retirement. These were the basis for all their complaints. Union members wanted a $10,000 across the board salary increase (base pay for a controller was $20,462). The FAA countered with an offer of $4,000. Robert Poli, union president, wanted to reduce the 40-hour five-day week to a 32-hour four-day week, but without a cut in salary for the reduced hours. Controllers deemed this their most important issue because they hoped it would cut down on the job stress experienced by so many of their group. They also wanted to change retirement requirements because they claimed that controllers "burn out" faster than other federal employees. In both of the last two demands, the government refused to discuss the issues.

By June 22, both sides hammered out an agreement that consisted of a 10% pay hike for controllers, a 20% increase in the nighttime work pay differential and a guaranteed 30-minute lunch period. Though Poli managed to get a few more benefits, he felt the overall package was not enough, and his members rejected the pact by 95%. Though the two sides went back to the bargaining table on July 31st, neither side seemed willing to budge and the strike began on August 3rd.

The following day, a federal judge imposed a fine of $2.4 million per day as long as the strike lasted. (This was later reduced.) The government also got a court order that barred the union from using its $3.7 million strike contingency fund and it began proceedings to have PATCO decertified. Union members and other unionists claimed the government was union busting. President Ronald Reagan claimed that by walking off the job, the air traffic controllers had quit their jobs. Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis said, "To all intents and purposes, the strike is over. Our concern is to rebuild the system."

With the recommendation of Secretary Lewis, President Ronald Reagan fired all those individuals who had gone on strike. Reagan and others reasoned that they did not have the right to strike because they would endanger the lives of countless air travelers. The positions were quickly occupied with new workers with consequent labor conflict throughout the country. In October, the organization was decertified and dissolved amid the controversial air traffic controllers' strike in 1981. President Bill Clinton, by an executive order, lifted the ban on the hiring of PATCO controllers on August 12, 1993.


1969-1970James E. Hayes
1970-1980John F. Leyden
1980-1982Robert E. Poli
1982Gary W. Eads

Executive Vice Presidents

1972-1980Robert E. Poli
1980-1982Robert E. Meyers
1982Domenic Torchia

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the Georgia State University Library online catalog (GIL). Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Eads, Gary.
Hayes, James E.
Leyden, John F.
Meyers, Robert E
Poli, Robert.
Torchia, Domenic.
Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (Washington D. C.)
Air Traffic Controllers' Strike, U.S., 1981.
Air traffic controllers--Pensions--United States.
Air traffic controllers--Salaries, etc--United States.
Air traffic controllers--Training of--United States.
Air traffic controllers--United States.
Collective labor agreements --Air traffic controllers--United States.
Grievance arbitration--United States.
Strikes and lockouts--Air traffic control--United States.


Restrictions on Access

Access to materials with personal or sensitive information has been restricted. Please consult with archivist for more information about accessing these records. This collection is stored off-site. Contact archivist in advance to view these materials; 24-hour notice is required. All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

To quote in print, or otherwise reproduce in whole or in part in any publication, including on the Worldwide Web, any material from this collection, the researcher must obtain permission from (1) the owner of the physical property and (2) the holder of the copyright. Persons wishing to quote from this collection should consult the reference archivist to determine copyright holders for information in this collection. Reproduction of any item must contain the complete citation to the original. All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Administrative Information


[item], [folder title], [series title], Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization Records, L1986-45, Southern Labor Archives. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University, Atlanta.

Acquisition Information

Records donated by Terrence A. Shannon of PATCO Local 159, 1986.

Processing Information

Series I through IV processed by Pam Hackbart Dean and Annie L. Tilden, 2001. Series V through XVIII processed by Harold V. Hansen III and George Rounds, 2009.

EAD finding aid created by Morna Gerrard, September 2002; revised by William Hardesty, February 2006. Further revisions and additional series added by Traci JoLeigh Drummond, 2010.

Related Material

Related materials in other repositories: The Texas Labor Archives at the University of Texas at Arlington holds many collections related to the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. Below is a sampling of these collections; please contact the Texas Labor Archives to find out more about these and other collections.

PATCO Records for the Southwest Region
Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization Records, Local 332, Kansas City, Missouri
Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization Records, Local 601, Anchorage, Alaska
George Brandon Papers
Arthur B. Shostak Collection
James D. Wright Papers

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