As people have a chance to read the book, I would like to provide room for them to share their reactions, particularly if they participated in or were directly affected by the events of 1981. I received this e-mail today from Elliott Simons. Elliott was a controller who served as the spokesperson for PATCO's local at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in 1981 and he lost his job for striking. He has agreed to let me post this message and a link to an article he wrote explaining his actions back in 1981. Perhaps others will want to also share their stories with me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was vacationing when you did the Diane Rehm show, but someone sent
me the link so I could listen to it. Thank you for doing the research
and writing the book.
Had I been listening that day I would not have been able to resist
calling in with my anecdote: I joined the FAA in 1975, and new
employees heard about the PATCO sickout right away to 'encourage' us to
join the union. I did, but when the stike talk began I was skeptical. I
attended a PATCO convention in Washington probably in early 1981, and I
heard John Leyden say that 'even if PATCO got the required 80-percent
participation for a strike it would not do so unless the political and
economic conditions were right.' That convinced me that this man knew
what he was doing, and with those conditions I provided my support.
Then a couple of things happened. First, Reagan
passed his huge
economic package and was riding as high as ever, and then he got shot,
thus the signals were clear. A political fly-in was scheduled shortly
after Reagan got shot in attempt to lobby members of Congress to our
cause, and the general feeling was that it should be postponed, but it
wasn't. Then an amazing thing happened that could only be seen as an
omen: at the end of the day a rally was held on the Capitol steps, but
about 15-minutes before that rally, with TV cameras rolling, a freak
early-spring thunderstorm rolled in and it poured -- I ran for cover,
thinking that someone was trying to tell us something.
The Leyden coup, followed by Robert Poli, was very confusing. I went
to a Congressional hearing and sat a few rows behind Poli as he defied
Congress, and I wondered who this person was and if he knew what he was
I participated in the strike against my better judgement, but only
because even without the 80-percent, and knowing that we had been
training staff people to re-gain their air traffic currency, I still
didn't think the FAA could sustain the strike. The worst thing that
could happen was to not go on strike and there be a settlement. I could not risk that even though I was quite certain our careers were over.
I wrote an article for the Washington Post about my story, copy of
which is attached. What's interesting about that piece is that it was
written after the June strike vote failed (much to my relief) in an
attempt to stop the strike, but the Post rejected it. After August 3rd
the editor called me and apologized, saying the only reason he rejected
it was that he didn't think the strike would occur, but that it would
have been a coup had he done so. He asked me to update it so that it
was 'post strike' and he would publish it. I hope you enjoy the piece ....