Friday, December 16, 2011
an event hosted by the labor federation's president, Richard Trumka. With me were two former PATCO strikers who lost their jobs in 1981, Elliott Simons, who worked then at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and Jim Morin, who worked at LaGuardia Airport in New York, as well as Ken Moffett, who headed the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in 1981, and who hosted the failed negotiations that preceded the controllers' walkout. It was an emotional event for some of those who had been around in 1981. Some PATCO strikers felt cut off from the rest of the labor movement thirty years ago, and for them it
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Among the most difficult things that striking air traffic controllers faced in 1981 was the prospect of prosecution for violating the law and leading a work stoppage against the United States government. In the book, I wrote this about the emotions that one controller's family felt in confronting this prospect: "As the clocked ticked down toward the strike vote, many tearful conversations took place in controllers' families. 'Daddy may even have to go to jail,' the wife of one Vermont controller told her children. If he did, they should not 'be ashamed,' she said. Instead, they should 'be very proud of him,' because if that happened it would be 'for a great cause.'"
In reality, of course, the prospect of defying the federal government was frightening, no matter how deeply one believed in the cause. Recently, I received two e-mails from a controller who did defy the government on August 3, 1981, and suffered for it. His name is Tim Berlekamp; he is currently President and CEO of Altec Limited, a consulting company that provides sustainable business solutions. In 1981 he was one of the "Oklahoma City Five," a group of five strikers who were singled out and prosecuted for their actions (such prosecutions happened in a number of cities). His reflections appear below the jump:
Saturday, December 3, 2011
This week I received an inspiring note from a former student of mine from back when I taught at SUNY-Geneseo. His name is Lucas Papaelias, and he now makes his living as an actor and musician in New York City. Lucas was moved by my account of the PATCO strike to talk about his own recent experiences during the 2007 strike by Broadway stagehands, members of Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. He explains why he supported that strike, even though it might have potentially cost him a chance to appear in a high-profile production with stars Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner. He tells that story, goes on to explain how his other union, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, came to his rescue in another dispute, and reflects on the importance of unions for all workers. Here is what he wrote:
i was unaware of the scope of the '81 PATCO strike.... i think it is an incredible subject matter and a true American story. it is inspiring, and got me to think of my own experiences.
in fall 2007, at the same time the Screen Actors Guild Writers strike was in full-swing, there was also an unprecedented strike conducted by the Local 1 stagehands union, which shut down most of Broadway for several weeks during november. the Actors Equity Association (my union since '00) was in full support of the strike, which affected me directly; i was making my Broadway debut at the time in a production of Cyrano de