Sunday, June 17, 2012

Calling Bob Poli

Occasionally I get a letter from a former PATCO member who inquires about Bob Poli, who led the union during the 1981 strikeI was not able to interview Bob Poli for my book.  The letters I sent to the addresses I had for him were not answered and those who offered to contact him on my behalf were unable to put us together.  He has tended to guard his privacy in recent years: he did not come to the two PATCO reunions I attended.   (Poli's son, Robert P. Poli, did drop in to meet me after the book was published, however, and I signed a copy for him.)  I heard recently from Larry Sawatzki, of Kansas City, who told me that he wanted to reach out to Poli.  His letter and its postscript is representative of many that I've gotten from strikers.  I'll reprint his letter below with his permission

Dear Professor McCartin,

My name is Larry Sawatzki.  I was a member of PATCO Local 332, MCI TRACON, Kansas City, MO.  I was hired by the FAA in 1973 after four years in the Navy.  I was an active member of the union, serving as facility rep in Kansas City, as well as terminal voting representative for the central region at the last two PATCO conventions.  I was a friend of Jack Maher, Mike Rock, and Gary Eads, as well as many others you mentioned in your book.  I was with Bob Poli in the lobby of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel on election night 1980.  When the national news networks projected Reagan as the winner we, along with numerous colleagues, proceeded to celebrate.

I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for the tremendous amount of work you did in compiling this history of our union.  It was a little painful over the last few days as my wife and I each read your book.  It is amazing how many details you can forget over 30 years, but you can never forget the feelings.

We recently visited with old controller friends in Kansas City.  Some of the people we saw for the first time since the early days of the strike.  We were all amazed at how quickly the feeling of family returned.

One thing a number of us in KC have wondered is what ever happened to Bob Poli.  After his resignation in 1982, he seems to have fallen from the face of the earth.  Do you have any information about where he went and what he has done since that you are able to share?

Again, thank you so much for documenting the history of our union.

Best Regards,

Larry Sawatzki
438 High Country Road
Sherman, Texas    75092

[P.S.] ... I would like to post an open invitation for Bob Poli to call me, if he feels like talking.  I am sure he feels like many people would blame him for what happened.  I do not.  It would be so good to be able to speak to him again.


  1. To add to Mr. Sawatzki's letter. I think a lot of us who went on strike forget that Mr. Poli tried extremely hard to stop the walk out, but the membership, at the Chicago Art Expo (I believe that was the building), distrgarded everything he asked of us and decided to walk anyway. We all owe Mr. Poli a great big thankyou for staying with us for so long.


  2. Sorry, have to disagree with Mr. Walton. I would like to see some record of Bob Poli doing anything to stop the walkout. Maybe there are some details Mr. Walton is leaving out. Any encouragement pre-strike by Bob Poli NOT to strike would have made serious PATCO news and spread like wildfire.

    In any event, Mr. Poli did not change course one iota leading up to Aug 3, or for the two days after August 3rd. Which would be not only contrary to what is implied above, but if what you wrote above is accurate, then it showed a lack or responsible leadership.

    Dave Sapadin
    Naperville, IL

    1. David, I was working in a level II tower, Ann Arbor, Michigan, then. I agree with YOU, in the Detroit Cluster, we had nothing but GO, regarding the strike vote. I always had a gut feeling it was strange timing for Poli to kind of "ouster" John Leyden when he did. In the past twenty years or so, I have developed a gut feeling it was all part of the plan to spur the outcome we have. WHY would Bob Poli disappear like he has? He was afraid. Why would he be afraid? Because perhaps, he KNOWS what the deal is and he's afraid someone has figured it out.