The Southern Labor Archives at Georgia State University Library is excited to announce the availability of five new additions to the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) collections. Over 11,000 PATCO members were fired by the Reagan Administration after conducting a strike against the Federal Government in 1981, and Reagan placed a ban on the rehiring of the fired controllers. The ban remained in effect until the Clinton Administration enacted a repeal in 1993. Even after the repeal, former PATCO members spent another decade fighting for the right to return to their profession.
Arch Bailey, Ron Elliott, Thomas Pesnicak, Randy Razook, and Marlene and Ron Palmer donated their personal collections to the Southern Labor Archives. These collections provide a more in depth view into the efforts of members prior to and after the strike as well as the effects of the strike on air safety and the air traffic controller profession as a whole.
Arch Bailey spent over a decade working with Controllers United in order to repeal the ban on former PATCO members, dismantle the stigma associated with PATCO, and push the FAA into following through with their commitment to rehire former PATCO members once the ban was lifted. The bulk of the materials relate to the efforts of Controllers United to convince President Clinton to lift the permanent ban, the eventual repeal of the ban in 1993, the subsequent difficulties faced by PATCO employees in returning to their jobs, and the shortage of air traffic controllers and its effects on airline safety.
Ron Elliott worked as an air traffic controller for 11 years, overseeing several towers in the Metro Atlanta area. As Choirboy for the Atlanta Cluster, Elliott played an integral role in the PATCO strike. Choirboys were selected to oversee each regional cluster to educate PATCO members about the strike and increase union solidarity. Elliott was also one of many PATCO members prosecuted as a criminal for striking. Legal files, grievances, reference files, correspondence, administrative files, newsletters, photographs, audio recordings, and artifacts make up the Ron Elliot PATCO Collection, including a copy of the Choirboy manual, t-shirts, and picket signs as well as recordings and transcripts of Call PAC strike updates.
Randy Razook was a member of PATCO and worked as an air traffic controller for the Eastern region in the state of Massachusetts. He also served as President of Local 229, Hyannis Tower in Barnstable, Massachusetts, and Choirboy for Clusters 28 and 29 of the Eastern region. In December of 1981, Razook resigned from his position, disagreeing with the decisions made by the national office and feeling that other methods would be necessary to get fired controllers back to work. Legal files, correspondence, reference files, administrative files, contract agreements and constitutions, notes, and artifacts make up the Randy Razook Papers. Highlights include picketing schedules, lists of clusters throughout the Eastern region, cluster communication network charts, head counts, strike planning materials, and correspondence between members of the National Board and the Benefits Committee and Choirboys.
Thomas Pesnicak was a member of PATCO and served as president of Local 204 in Leesburg, Virginia. Pesnicak participated in the strike and was fired in August of 1981. The papers consist primarily of photographs and artifacts. Photographs include images of Local 204 strikers, Baltimore strikers, Pesnicak and other PATCO members at the 1981 Convention in New Orleans, and members at the PATCO 1983 reunion. Artifacts include strike buttons, a keychain, and patch. Also included is an issue of the PATCO Journal with an article written by Pesnicak.
Ron Palmer worked as an air traffic controller for the Miami Tower and served as Vice President of PATCO Local 132 in Miami, Florida, from 1977 to 1980. The Marlene and Ron Palmer PATCO Scrapbooks contain two photo albums compiled by Marlene Palmer documenting the strike and the Air Traffic Controllers Support Organization (ATCSO), which was formed by the spouses of PATCO members in 1979. The “Photo Essay and Strike Chronicles” contains photos of Ron Palmer and other strikers as well as newspaper clippings concerning the strike and its after effects. The ATCSO scrapbook is a particularly important contribution as it showcases the important role spouses played in orchestrating the strike, including their correspondence, manual, bylaws, and newsletters.
A strike of such magnitude would not have been possible without the collective efforts of dynamic individuals such as these! Please contact Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library, for more information about these collections (firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.413.2880).
This blog post was contributed by Crystal Rodgers, who in her job as a processing assistant in Special Collections and Archives processed all of the collections listed above. Thanks, Crystal!