This Day in History

Aug. 3, 1981: Air Traffic Controllers Strike

Time Periods: Post-Civil Rights Era: 1975 - 2000
Themes: Labor

On Aug. 3, 1981, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) declared a strike, seeking better working conditions, better pay, and a 32-hour workweek. On Aug. 5, following the PATCO workers’ refusal to return to work, President Ronald Reagan fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order, and banned them from federal service for life.

PATCO strike. Source: Georgia State University Library PATCO archives.

Learn more in the review of “Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers and the Strike that Changed America” in In These Times by Joe Burns.