There are some jobs from which people really cannot strike. To many lives are at stake. One such job is that of air-traffic controllers, nevertheless, on August 3, 1981, almost 13,000 air-traffic controllers went on strike after negotiations with the federal government designed to raise air-traffic controller pay and shorten their workweek failed. In the complaint, the controllers sited difficult working conditions and a lack of recognition of the pressures they face as major issues they were facing. When the strike began, some 7,000 flights across the country, had to be canceled. It was a major disaster in the United States. Air travel was a vital part of American life.
President Reagan immediately called the strike illegal and stated that he would fire any controller who had not returned to work within 48 hours. Robert Poli who was the president of the Professional Air-Traffic Controllers Association (PATCO) at that time, was found in contempt by a federal judge and ordered to pay $1,000 a day in fines. The air-traffic controllers still had not returned to work on August 5, 1981, so President Ronald Reagan began firing 11,359 air-traffic controllers striking in violation of his order for them to return to work. The executive action was regarded as extreme by many and significantly slowed air travel for months. Nevertheless, President Reagan did what he needed to do. There are certain occupations that require continued, loyal work, even during a dispute.
An angry President Reagan carried out his threat that August day, and the federal government began firing the 11,359 air-traffic controllers who had not returned to work. In addition, he declared a lifetime ban on the rehiring of the strikers by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They made their choice and our president made good on the repercussions, and they got no second changes. Air travel slowed to a crawl, but on August 17, the FAA began accepting applications for new air-traffic controllers, and on October 22 the Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified PATCO. These new air-traffic controllers needed to know just how important their job was and that even in a dispute, they went to work. To my knowledge, a strike of the air-traffic controllers has never happened again.