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Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization records, Series XI: Regions and Locals

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

A Guide to the PATCO Records, Series XI: Regions and Locals

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 11 of 18) describes Series XI, Regions and Locals, 1968-1982 (8.75 linear feet of records in 22 boxes), which contains limited documentation of PATCO's local units.
Identification: L1986-45

Organization of the Records

The records are organized into 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
Series VIII: Financial Records
Series IX: Conventions
Series X: Arbitration and Grievances
Series XI: Regions and Locals [Detailed Description below]
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 of Series XI: Regions and Locals

The Regions and Locals series (1968-1982) contains limited amounts of correspondence, financial records, tax forms, and organizational materials from local units of PATCO. The local unit folders are labeled by name and local number. In addition, they contain similar materials from the regional offices of PATCO. Each region (East, South, Central, Great Lakes, Southwest, Western, and Pacific) had its own office and regional vice president that helped to manage union business and bureaucracy for its geographical region (1974-1976).

In addition to region-specific correspondence, this series contains materials devoted to the regional seminars organized by PATCO to educate its membership (1974-1976) and a regional public relations manual to help local union leaders deal effectively with the press in their areas. Materials are not evenly distributed between the various regions. The majority comes from the Eastern Region, which includes Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Between 1972 and 1976 the Eastern Region created its own constitution, safety, finance, and convention committees to help manage the business of the region.

Several sections of this series deal indirectly with the 1981 Strike, including several folders of region correspondence (1981-1982). After all the striking controllers were fired and the union was decertified, the central office for the most part disbanded and its remaining personnel and resources went towards the ongoing legal and labor fight. In turn the regional offices took up the majority of the task of corresponding with the individual locals and membership and these folders constitute part of that effort.

This series also contains a number of regional membership correspondence files (1977-1978). These files contain PATCO’s attempt to get a clear handle on their true membership numbers and prepare for a potential strike once the 1977 contract with the FAA expired.

History of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization

The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) was formed in the New York area in 1968 to represent the interests of federally employed air traffic controllers. The objectives of the organization were to preserve and promote the profession; to improve 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 (FAA) and other agencies concerning grievances, personnel policies, practices and other matters. In 1981, though as federal employees it was illegal for them to do so, PATCO members went on strike. Over 11,000 controllers were subsequently dismissed.

Wages, work hours, and retirement were the significant issues for the PATCO rank and file in their 1981 negotiation with the FAA. Members wanted an across-the-board $10,000 salary increase (base pay for a controller was then $20,462). PATCO President Robert Poli also wanted the 40-hour five-day week reduced to a 32-hour four-day week without a decrease in salary. Controllers deemed the shorter work week their most important issue, because they hoped it would reduce the on-the-job stress that many of them experienced. They also wanted a change in retirement requirements because they claimed that controllers experienced "burn out" faster than other federal employees. The government refused to discuss the last two demands. An agreement was reached by June 22 that called for a 10% pay hike for controllers, a 20% increase in the nighttime work pay differential, and a guaranteed 30-minute lunch period. Though Poli had managed to get a few more benefits, he felt the overall package was not enough. When it went to a vote, 95% of his members rejected the pact. Though the two sides went back to the bargaining table on July 31, neither seemed willing to budge. On August 3, 1981, the 15,000-member Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization went on strike.

Because PATCO members were responsible for guiding commercial airline flights throughout the United States, the strike caused confusion, long delays, and worries about air travel safety. Furthermore, as federal employees, PATCO members by law were not permitted to strike. On August 5, the federal government issued dismissal notices to over 11,000 controllers who refused to return to their jobs. To President Ronald Reagan, the air traffic controllers had quit their jobs by striking illegally. Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis said, "To all intents and purposes, the strike is over. Our concern is to rebuild the system."

On August 6, a federal judge imposed a fine of $2.4 million per day (later reduced) on PATCO as long as the strike lasted. The government also obtained a court order that barred the union from using its $3.7 million strike contingency fund and began proceedings to have it decertified. Union members and other unionists claimed that the government was union busting. New workers were quickly trained and installed as air traffic controllers and in October, PATCO was decertified and dissolved. The PATCO strike and firing was one of the most significant and controversial episodes involving the American labor movement during the era.

On August 12, 1993, President Bill Clinton, by an executive order, lifted the ban on rehiring PATCO controllers who had been fired twelve years earlier.

Presidents of PATCO

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 this repository: The Southern Labor Archives contains the Chet Kisling Papers, 1978-1996 (bulk 1981-1982), L2005-17, personal papers of a fired PATCO member.

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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