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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 27, 2011 8:45am-10:00am EST

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be. sometimes you can't. no one wants to do that. you've got to work, all of us. >> first i just want to make a quick comment on the use of psychostimulants in the military. of course, during second world war this was not confined to active troops. but particularly in japan, not only military but in war related industries. leading to huge epidemic of the drug of course was amphetamine. that still goes on today in the military. so this is not the whole story and not confined to the germans. my question has to do with the difference in sort of the concourse of addiction, halsted versus forward. my question is for with problem was, in terms of the use of use
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was relatively time-limited were as halsted it was basically a lifelong episode. or problem. and you mentioned, just sort of very publicly that there may have been differences into route of administration and they used. [inaudible] >> there's a large literature the rate to which drugs get to the brain not only influences many other a.q. effects but the long-term effects in terms of changing the brain and so on. might that be a factor that accounts for the natural history speak was absolutely. the great thing about using cocaine is your drug abuse, if you're writing about it, that is guarantee, almost guaranteed to be a dramatic story. because the winner from abuse to addiction to bad stuff is very small. alcoholism on the other hand you can be using for quite some time before everything goes completely. and everything heroin abusers
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can go for quite some time. but there's no question in my mind as a position that the root of administrations very important. no medical evidence, a lot of rope, a lot of drugs, i could make everyone in this room an addict within a week. using the right substance, and freud as i said earlier tended to either mix a little bit in a glass of water and then later he said he painted his nose or he brushed his nose, what we might today call snorting or sniffing cocaine. halsted on the other hand, which is by the way not a terribly efficient way of taking cocaine. users 95% of the kick, only 5% by snorting it. it's a very wasteful way of using your drug. most drug addicts like to get the most bang the most bang for the buck. they learned quickly not to do that.
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smoking crack cocaine is the wonderfully efficient way of taking cocaine because the lungs contain basically a football field in area of blood vessels that the drug will transfer over and then go right to the brain. and similarly, ingesting it is a superb direct route to the brain. so the difference between -- and the more hugo wow, the more you habitually to that substance. those dosage and root administration is really critical to how quickly your addiction will progress. and that's certainly true of halsted who's basically injection drug user of both cocaine and morphine. and he was never able to kick it. halsted -- freud probably contained to about a 12 year period. spirit i want to recommend to you all this marvelous book, "an
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anatomy of addiction: sigmund freud, william halsted, and the miracle drug cocaine" by doctor and professor howard markel. i want to thank you for coming and i want to thank c-span. and a half of the institution of humanities and the ann arbor book fair and the hatcher library, thank you, howard markel. [applause] >> for more information visit the author's website, >> we would like to hear from you. tweet us with the book, >> and now i booktv, joseph mccartin recounts the professional air traffic controllers organization called for an illegal strike in august of 1981 and the subsequent firing of the strikers by president ronald reagan. this lasts an hour and 10 minutes. it took place at the jimmy
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carter presidential library and museum in atlanta, georgia. >> hey, everybody, thank you for coming tonight. before i introduce joseph mccartin i would like to say a few words about what led to the collaboration between the two libraries on this event. some of them you may know that they are guys which is part of the special collection at georgia state university library houses the records of the professional air traffic controllers organization. doctor mccartney is the collection before it was ever even opened, process and open for research. when barbara peterson's who was alive or digital projects and grants library and i began writing the grant in hope of getting portions of the patco records digitized we contacted doctor mccartney to see the could write a letter of recommendation. when i made this context he told me about he was what you would be written in the next year or so. at december 2010.
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we receive notification from national historic publications and records commission that our grant proposal was accepted and that we would receive funding to digitize close to 169,000 scans from the patco record. so what better way to get the word out about the grand and to invite joseph mccartin to atlanta to give the book talks? because he performed research at the carter library as well as by the southern labor archives. he suggested we reach out to them to see if we could cosponsor the event. so again, many thanks to the carter library for providing tonight and you. and now to introduce joseph, joseph mccartin is historian of the u.s. labor movement and 20th century of social and political history. he received his ph.d from the state university of new york at being attended he has been associate professor of history at georgetown university since 1999. for the last two years he is director george downs an issue
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for labour and the working poor. since 1999 book, "labor's great war," one of the award for the best book in u.s. labor history. he has been the recipient of grants and fellowships from national fellowships from national endowment for the humanities,. >> and philosophical society, the woodrow wilson international center for scholars, and the charles warren center at harvard university. is as his have been published in both scholarly and popular press as "the new republic," "the new york times," and journal of american history, among others. his current research scores the impact of organizations on politics government and private-sector labor relations. this is the interest led him to write the book easy to speak about this evening, "collision course: ronald regan, the air traffic controllers, and the strike that changed america." please help me welcome doctor joseph mccartin. [applause]
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>> thank you very much, tracy. appreciate that introduction. and thank you for your excellent work, preserving the history of workers and the labor movement in the southern labor archives at georgia state university. without that repository i couldn't have written this book, and we would know much less than i think were the most important events in recent labor history. thanks to my hosts here at the carter center, especially tony clark and director jay hakes. i did an important segment in my research your at the carter library, worked at other presidential library's, the kennedy library and, of course, the library of ronald reagan. for those of you who don't know these presidential libraries are really a treasure trove of
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american history. and we are all indebted to the folks that maintain these records and make them available to future historians, and really to the public and american citizens. so it's a pleasure to be here to speak with you tonight about my book, "collision course: ronald regan, the air traffic controllers, and the strike that changed america." which is officially released in fact today. when more than 12,000 members of the professional air traffic controllers organization, patco, walked off their jobs with the federal aviation administration on august 3, 1981, 1 analyst noted that the illegal strike had been in making almost since the moment their union was founded in the 1960s. it was the inevitable choice for this journalist because most of patco's 12 year existence appears to have been preparation
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for this moment. the controls had such a long history of militancy before 1981 that it was not surprising in some ways that they became the first union to stage a carefully choreographed plan nationwide strike against the federal agency. and yet the journalist was puzzled, that white-collar workers with what this journal is called a teen appreciation for the professionalism of their calling, that workers like this would strike against the government. newspaper columnists jimmy breslin made a similar observation as he watched patco strikers and their families gather on long island to rally two days after the strike began on august 5, 1981. at precisely the moment where they were about to be fired for defying a deadline set by
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president ronald reagan to return to work. the president will come at the moment they were supposed to be fired, on order of the president, these members of suburban white america, all these air traffic controllers and their wives and children became silent, and now their fists shot up into the air in what a surprise columnist called the stokely carmichael salute. the '60s were long gone, breslin used, but here he wrote quote, 13 years and more later, suburbanite america finally catches up. here, or people from north battle on long island, shooting their fists into the air in protest against their government. these journalists were clearly fascinated by the seeming incongruities of the patco strike, and illegal walkout, by highly trained professional
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workers, a brazen to find a the president of the union that endorsed his election only months earlier. a rejection of reagan's ultimatum, by workers who appeared to be among his most loyal constituents, air traffic controllers. after all, were overwhelmingly suburban white male military veterans. the typical reagan constituency in many peoples eyes. so much about the patco strike seemed to suggest its exceptional nature to empathize its aberrant character. these very characteristics i think made it hard for scholars to understand the strike, and more than it superficial way. most treatments of the controllers tend to either strike to make a point. labor defenders used the strike as a milestone, marking the
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onset of a period of aggressive union busts in the united states. or as the cautionary tale meant to criticize the afl-cio's leadership before reagan's act of busting patco. union opponents cite this strike as a blow against union tyranny. as proof that collective bargaining has no place in government, or they say as a galvanizing moment of the reagan presidency, reagan's single most significant symbolic act. but as i try to argue in this book, probing more deeply into the story of five -- behind this conflict moves us beyond superficial observations, and sheds light on the forces that remade america between 1960 when this story began in 1981 when
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the air traffic controllers struck, creating a defining moment in recent american history. understanding those forces i think gives us important lessons for today. to set the context for this and to explain more about what i mean here, i would like to read a passage from the introduction to my book. the intro is called getting the picture, and that title refers, i know there is at least one control here tonight, one former controller, maybe others, folks who know air traffic control know what that phrase means. it refers to the procedure that their traffic controllers go through as they prepare to come on duty to take over a sector from somebody else who was working it. they sit down, the plug-in and you listen to the air traffic controller working until they can report to the controller i've got the picture, i
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understand what's going on in the sector and i'm prepared to take over. here it carries a double meaning here before it refers also to the process by which one of the books main figures, patco's cofounder jack, came to realize suddenly that enormity of the event that was unfolding on a hot august day in 1981, as the union that he had helped to start and create found itself locked in battle with a popular president. ..
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>> jack maher had been working in the facility that was handling air traffic in new york that day. he was not at fault in this accident, in fact, no air traffic controller was. but he knew the controller whose screen belatedly showed the two blips or targets coming together just before the moment they collided on that awful morning. and and he and his coworkers were changed by that horrific event. that event, as i show, was the spark that started controllers like maher organizing in the early 1960s. they had long complained of their faulty equipment, the mandatory overtime hours, six-day workweeks required at that time.
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faulty equipment, inadequate staffing. when they realized in the aftermath of this strike that their employer, the faa, was more concerned with avoiding blame for the accident than with responding to the real problems in the system, they decided that they had to organize. so the book opens by describing that and then moves forward 20 years. to a point when jack maher found himself witness to another horrible collision about to happen. more than 20 years later retired from air traffic control and living in south carolina, jack maher could still not shake the memories of that dreadful morning, december 1960. he had been working on the radar screens in hangar 11 then, and he had directed the twa for a few minutes over eastern
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pennsylvania beforehanding it off to orr controllers. he knew the controller most affected by the accident. the events of that december day were forever seared into his consciousness. those memories came flooding back again on august 3, 1981, when maher awoke, turned on his radio to hear the news. over 12,000 air traffic controllers, three-quarters of the work force of the federal aviation administration, had walked off their jobs. the men and women who normally directed air traffic to, from and between more than 400 airports in the largest air traffic system in the world were defying laws that made it illegal for federal workers to strike. pledging not to return until the government raised their pay, shortened their workweeks and
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took other measures to reduce the stress of their jobs. the walkout was more than a news story to maher. the strikers were members of the professional air traffic controllers' organization, patco, a union that had grown out of the persistent efforts of maher and other veterans of hangar 11 to organize in the aftermath of the 1960 disaster. it took several years and some abortive efforts to build that union. maher was its co-founder, he gave it its name. he had resigned from patco's staff in a squabble with its president a year earlier. he had decided then to move south to confront his alcoholism, but in truth maher's heart was still with the union he had helped to found. during the summer of 1981, he had closely followed its contract talks with the administration of president
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ronald reagan. the announcement that the negotiations had broken down and patco was striking did not surprise him m -- him. he knew the 1981 contract negotiation would be difficult. the union had prepared for three years for this moment and decided long before that if government did not address its demands, it would organize something unprecedented. a coordinated national strike. maher had let the effort -- had led the effort to design that strike plan. he understood every aspect of the union's strike strategy. he knew that if patco was calling a strike, its leaders believed they were in a position to shut down the nation's air traffic. asthma her digested the news and reflected on the 20 years of struggle that had led to this
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moment, his thoughts turned to his longtime friend and partner in the founding of patco, mike rock, another veteran of hangar 11. maher knew exactly where rock would be at that moment. in the union's strike headquarters, a secret safehouse, the bunker. maher himself had picked it out on a rundown street near the capitol in washington. from that location rock was helping to direct something never before seen, a carefully planned, illegal strike stretching from puerto rico to gam, from key west to anchorage against the most powerful government in the world. maher resolved at that moment that he had to go to washington. he was determined to stand in solidarity with rock and his friends. jumping in his car, he sped to
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i-95 and headed north. as the miles rolled by, the car radio carried frequent bulletins of the walkout. announcers reported that scheduled flights had been cut in half that morning, and a skeleton crew of nonstrikers, supervisors and hastily-deployed air traffic controllers was scrambling to handle the remaining flights. rental car agencies and train and bus depots were swamped with worried travelers. analysts were offering staggering predictions of the strike's potential costs if it continued for more than a few days. it seemed to maher that the plan was working. there was no way the government could refuse to improve its contract offer in the face of this strike, he thought. his optimism was not diminished by the live broadcast of president reagan's statement from the white house rose garden at 11 a.m.
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reagan announced to the assembled press corps and millions watching on television that his administration would not negotiate with controllers engaged in an illegal strike. if the strikers failed to return to work within 48 hours, he explained, they would be terminated from their jobs and permanently replaced. what lesser action can there be, reagan asked, the law is very explicit. they are violating the law. maher thought reagan was posturing, talking tough for the cameras while they were talking details of a possible settlement at that very moment. that was how patco's previous albeit smaller-scale confrontations with the federal government had gone, maher remembered. there was no reason to believe that the pattern would not be
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repeated now with three-quarters of the nation's air traffic controllers out on strike. maher was sure that reagan would not fire more than 10,000 skilled specialists that the government had spent hundreds of millions of dollars and many years to train. not when they were seeking only improved work conditions and fair compensation after years of seeing salary lag behind inflation, not when dismissing them would ultimately cost more than meeting their demands. yet asthma her sped toward washington, the ironies of the situation in which his friends and former colleagues found themselves were obvious. air traffic controllers tended to love their work as much as they hated the faa's management style. complained about government pay scales and griped about their stressful workplaces. on this hot august morning,
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thousands of them were risking the careers they had hoped would guarantee them a middle class lifestyle. although they were breaking federal law in an unprecedented effort to shut down the nation's air travel, they were hardly radicals. on the contrary, the vast majority of them were suburb-dwelling military veterans who, like maher, had first learned air traffic control while in the fs. service. the strike's field coordinator, hand-picked by maher, was a decorated vietnam war hero. most of the thousands of vietnam veterans in the union's ranks had not been drafted into the service, they had willingly enlisted. after their discharge they had applied for jobs with the faa because they found the work better paying than their other options, because it was exciting, and because it offered them something unavailable to americans who lacked college degrees as most controllers did. the chance to become
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professionals. they were striking now because they felt that they had to protect their profession from the degradation of diminished real earnings and increased stress. i don't even think air traffic controllers should have the right the strike, explained the 33-year-old strike leader at the faa's huge air route traffic control center outside washington in leesburg, virginia. we're striking against the federal government now because for ten years we have exhausted every means at our disposal with the government. at this point we've been forced to strike. a marine veteran of the siege of captain yen, one of the bloodiest fire fights of the vietnam war, jim was not intimidated by the president's ultimatum. i'm standing up for something i believe in, and i'm not about to fold, he added.
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asthma her well knew, strikers meant what they said. maher found the irony in the situation almost too excruciating to contemplate. ronald reagan, past president of the screen actors' guild, the only former union official ever to occupy the oval office, a man whose election patco had endorsed only nine months earlier condemning good people as lawbreakers and threatening them with dismissal, perhaps even jail? but in many ways it was not surprising that the air traffic controllers and reagan found themselves in a showdown on august 3, 1981, for in a sense the conflict had been long in the making. both reagan and patco were in many respects products of the
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1960s, although disparate products, to be sure. in fact, the seeds were both sewn during the presidency of john f. kennedy. a new deal liberal in the todays after world war ii, ronald reagan gradually drifted rightward in the 1950s as his movie career faded. but he remained nominally a democrat until the kennedy administration's policies convinced him to leave the party of his youth. kennedy's liberalism appalled reagan. writing to richard nixon, the man kennedy had defeated in the 1960s election, reagan lashed out at the sitting president and his policies. under the tussled, boyish haircut is still old karl marx, reagan wrote, first launched a century ago. there is nothing new in the idea
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of a government being big brother to us all. switching his registration to the republican party in 1962, reagan began to map out the political career that would eventually carry him to the white house. the same year that reagan switched parties, kennedy signed executive order 10988 which allowed millions of federal workers to join unions and to bargain with the u.s. government over some of the conditions of their work. kennedy's order inspired many states and localities to also allow their workers to join unions and bargain collectively, prompting a massive wave of unionization across all levels of government in the 1960s and '70s. it was the kennedy order that cleared the way for a union-organizing drive among air traffic controllers.
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among them, maher and his co-founder of patco, mike rock. an organizing drive that would culminate in the founding of patco in 1968 in a hotel room only 10 miles from the site of the midair collision that had started the organizing eight years earlier. both the conservative movement with which reagan was identified and the public sector labor movement that produced unions like patco gathered strength as the 1960s gave way to the 1970s. in a sense, these two '60s-spawned forces had been on a collision course for years, and on august 3, 1981, the day of reckoning had arrived. the confrontation came at a crucial moment in american political and economic history,
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as the reagan revolution began refashioning the role of government in american life in 1981, cutting back regulation and spending on social programs, american workers were entering a period of enormous vulnerability. already the economy was sliding into a recession that would push unemployment to 10% in 1982, its highest level since before world war ii. income growth had stagnated for most workers, indeed, inflation-adjusted hourly pay had begun to decline in formerly vibrant sectors like manufacturing. moreover, the labor movement once the bulwark of the liberal order seemed unable to resist these political and economic trend. unions had been severely weakened as container ships began disgorging imports in bulk
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on american waterfronts, as oil prices skyrocketed, as stagflation appeared, as factories closed in waves and as employers began fighting unions with a level of determination unseen since the new deal. as the share of workers organized in unions slipped under 22% in 1981 down from its high of 35% after world war ii, the labor movement was already losing clout. one indicator of the shift little noticed at the time was a subtle change in strike activity, a careful study of statistics showed that employers were more likely to try to break strikes after 1975 than they had been for the first 30 years after world war ii. increased employer resistance was already beginning to have an effect. by the spring of 1981, the annual number of work stoppages or strikes recorded by the
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bureau of labor statistics fell by 20% in 1980. it seemed that workers' confidence in their ability to win strikes was wavering just as the controllers' walkout began. that this most significant strike of the late 20th century was unfolding in the public sector among government workers was itself ironic. the rise of public employee unions in the years after kennedy's order in 1962 had been one of the happiest developments for organized labor since the new deal. the growing numbers of unionized government workers like air traffic controllers had partially offset the falling rate of private sector unionization. but on august 3rd the tables suddenly turned. the public sector union movement that had buoyed labor's fortunes for nearly two decades was now the source of a potentially
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devastating blow, an illegal and unpopular strike by patco's federal employees erupting just as employers' resistance to strikes was rising across the board, threatening to place all of organized labor on the defensive. yet jack maher was not primarily concerned with the political implications or the historic significance of the patco strike as he drove toward washington. his thoughts were of his friends and former colleagues. the procedure when one air traffic controller replaced another during a shift change called for the incoming controller to plug in his headset, closely study the blizzard of moving blips or targets moving across the ray radar screen and listen to the controller issuing commands until he was sure he understood the flow of the traffic in that
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sector he was about to take over. only when the controller coming on duty assured the first controller that he, quote, had the picture, would the first controller unplug and clock out. as he arrived in washington late in the day on august 3rd from his long drive, maher's first instinct was to get the picture. so he rushed to patco's strike headquarters on north capitol street, pumping everyone he saw for information. when maher learned that patco president robert poli was out of the office, he assumed he was in secret negotiation with the reagan people, but no one maher buttonholed that evening was aware of any negotiations underway. as far as anyone in the patco office knew. the white house was refusing to talk while the controllers remained on strike. the one bit of news maher did pick up, he judged to be
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insignificant, a rumor that some former secretaries of labor were offering to mediate the conflict. when the person who shared this with him swore him to secrecy about it, maher began to worry. if that rumor was the best hope patco had, then the situation was worse than he anticipated. there might be no back channel negotiations undertaken before reagan's 48-hour deadline passed. yet asthma her left patco's headquarters, he still believed that as long as the strikers' ranks held, the union would prevail. the next morning he decided to get the views of his longtime collaborator, mike rock, who was still ensconced in patco's secret safehouse a mile from the capitol. as maher weppedded his way toward the secret location, he thought about the many jams he and rock had found themselves in over the years since they had
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helped bring patco to birth in 1968. it had never been an easy proposition organizing a strong union in the public sector under rules that made it difficult to organize and strike. maher and rock had pushed the legal envelope many times before and been threatened repeatedly with firing or worse, but they had never faced a situation quite as serious as this one. if anyone had the nerve to steer the union to victory, maher thought, it was surely rock. mike strike, as the patco members jokingly called him. yet when mike rock opened the safehouse door, maher's confidence was not inspired by the sight of his friend. rock looked worried. this was unlike him. in past battles with the government, rock had exuded a cocky confidence. on this day maher found his
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friend uncharacteristically subdued. thinking that rock might only be tired and hoping to pick up his pal's spirits, maher recounted the news he had gleaned at the union's headquarters the night before including the rumor about potential mediators. isn't it is -- the silliest damn thing, this asshole swearing me to secrecy, maher chuckled? but rock could not share the laugh. instead, he delivered his own grim diagnosis. reagan was determined to break the strike, rock said, and when a president stakes a stand -- takes a stand like that, no union could force him to back down. then turning to the man who had helped him found patco rock said, well, jackie, we got to the end of the road. it's all over now. maher was ip credulous -- incredulous. mike strike ready to throw in
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the towel only one day into the walkout? he tried to shake rock from his funk. all was not lost, he insisted. patco still held high cards. he reminded rock of the logic behind the union's strike strategy. the government would be forced to come to terms with the strikers, maher argued, no matter what the president said. reagan could not fire three-quarters of the air traffic control work force. and hope to operate an air transportation system for long. americans would never tolerate paying many billions more to break a strike than it would cost to meet contracts, patco's contract demands. training 10,000 new recruits and reducing flight scheduled toes for years to come -- schedules for years to come would be a price too high for the government to pay. but rock disagreed. now that patco was on strike, he countered, ray -- reagan would
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welcome the chance that his administration would pay any price rather than yield to pressure from a union. try as he might, maher could not convince him otherwise. when their visit came to an end, maher left the safehouse fervently hoping that rock was wrong. the situation couldn't have been more unnerving for jack maher. with the deadline fast approaching and what was already shaping up to be the most momentous american strike of the second half of the 20th century, the man whose judgment maher most trusted believed that the union that they had founded together was about to be broken and destroyed. making matters worse, maher realized that it might already be too late for patco to change course. it was doubtful that controllers would heed a last minute back-to-work order from the union's national leaders unless it was accompanied by a new
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contract offer from the government. the strikers had assumed all along that the government might try to dismiss them before, ultimately, compromising. indeed, this assumption was built into the strike plan that maher had helped to conceive. organizers had prepared the union's members in advance for this threat. they'd also explained that if strikers stuck together, they would make it impossible for the government to carry through on a mass firing. thus, as the deadline approached, patco's ranks were holding firm. like jim of northern virginia, air traffic controllers were standing up for something in which they passionately believed, and they were not about to fold. instantly, the patco/reagan standoff assumed the aspect of a tragedy, inexorably unfolding with each tick of the clock. with the president's deadline only 24 hours away, a collision now seemed inevitable.
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that collision not only threatened disaster for striking air traffic controllers, it also had the potential to undermine the long-term integrity of the air traffic control system, loosen the moral restraints that had kept private sector anti-unionism in check. and expose the glaring flaws of the american system of labor relations before tens of millions of workers whose incomes and dignity depended upon its presumed protections. workers who had never boarded an airplane, let alone seen the inside of a control tower. it was an air traffic controller's worst nightmare. the sickening scenario that had haunted maher's dreams ever since that grim december morning in 1960. two targets were con eventualing on a screen -- converging on a screen. each sweep of the radar saw them
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draw closer to a collision. but it was too late to issue any new vectors. too late for course corrections. all maher could do was watch helplessly as the targets came together, hoping that his friend was mistaken, praying that a disaster could be averted. and wondering how it had come to this. so this is how i open the book. with the sense and the realization even at the moment that the strike was still in its first 24 hours, that it por tended possible disaster not only for maher and his friends, but for the country in many ways. in the pages that follow, i explain how that moment came about and how that moment changed this country, and i
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believe it did. the story picks up in the aftermath of the 1960s disaster. it traces air traffic controllers' efforts to organize a union in the 1960s. it explains how they were both simultaneously inspired and frustrated by john f. kenty's ex-- kennedy's executive order which gave them the promise of bargaining with the government but so restricted what they could bar gain about that it barely changed anything, they felt. and it explains the resistance by the faa to any organization of controllers that was there from the very beginning in the early 1960s. the resistance that set in place a dynamic of conflict between the air traffic controllers and their employer that built over time and that, ultimately, led to the 1981 strike. the book goes on to show how the controllers adopted ingenius
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methods to build an organization despite the government's resistance in the '90s -- '60s, how they enlisted a famous trial lawyer, f. lee bailey, to help them organize their union. how they used a variety of tactics -- slowdowns, work to rule actions, sickouts -- one of which was a code phrase uttered by bailey when he was appearing on johnny carson's late night show, "the tonight show." how they used tactics like these to try to pressure the government to listen to them. it shows how they staged the first air traffic control strike in 1970 under the guise of a sickout, under the cover of a sickout. they called in sick for three weeks, about 3,000 air traffic controllers. to try to get the government to listen to some of their concerns. it shows how in the aftermath of that conflict they cut a secret deal with the nixon administration that avoided
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controllers losing their jobs permanently for, basically, striking against the government in 1970. um, and, in fact, even one recognition -- even won recognition for patco within a couple of years of that job action. it shows how the union grew over the course of the 1970s under a pretty remarkable leader named john laden who was able to balance various factions within the union and project just enough militancy to try to get the government to respond to patco's concerns without endangering the union. but the book goes on to show how over the course of the 1970s the controllers' efforts to have their voices heard became increasingly frustrating for them. and they found themselves unable to negotiate over the things that mattered most to them.
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they were forced to fight over ancillary issues like free training flights and in the meanwhile the faa continued to resist most of their efforts to win reforms. it was during the carter years, and i did important parts of the research for this book here in the carter library, it was in the carter years the book argues that things really began to get very difficult for patco. and patco began to lurch toward the conflict that ultimately happened under reagan in '81. patco found itself caught between restrictive federal collective bargaining rules on the one hand and the social, economic and political changes that were underway in america in the 1970s on the other. all of this served to weaken the britain of john laden -- the grip of john laden on the leadership of the union. controllers saw their dreams of
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using their skills to become upwardly mobile professionals challenged in the mid '70s by the bane that challenged much of america in those years, inflation. which nipped at the heels of federal workers. in effect, federal workers as a whole were suffering a 3% wage cut in real purchasing power for their wages over the course of the middle part of the 1970s. most federal workers didn't feel that they could do much about that. but mutter under their breaths. air traffic controllers, however, got the idea that they could challenge that, and they could try to win back through their militancy wages that inflation was taking from them. the book describes how the deregulation of the airlines in the 1970s created a situation that complicated air traffic control and made many air traffic controllers feel that their work was being sped up and
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becoming harder. and it recounts also the way that the air traffic controller work force changed over the course of the 1970s as african-americans and women began to diversify that work force that had once been predominantly white male, though very slowly and with resistance off. often, did this diversification take place. and how the union was changed by the culture of controllers who came into the ranks of air traffic control facilities in the mid 1970s who were affected by the 1960s and especially by the vietnam era and the vietnam con fingerprint. conflict. many controllers, more than 80%, came out of the military. many of them were disillusioned already with their government because of vietnam and what they experienced there and what they saw at faa deepened their disillusion. amid all of these changes,
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sentiments began to build among controllers, i show, that they could win for themselves if they stuck together real changes in their work plays. that -- workplaces. that they could force the government to do something that it had never done before, fully recognize the collective bargaining rights of workers; that is, allow air traffic controllers to bargain over their wages and benefits and other parts of their job. they came to believe that they could win this. it was at precisely this moment that ronald reagan entered their lives and entered the picture. as controller militancy was growing in the late '70s, as their determination to improve their situation grew, then came the election between jimmy carter and ronald reagan. by this point the controllers were so disaffected with the carter administration's faa that they didn't consider really
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endorsing carter's re-election. they thought it would be more of the same. they began negotiating with reagan's campaign, and ultimately, arrived at an agreement. they would endorse reagan, and in return reagan would promise to help them if he was elected president. the book goes deeply into this, and i'll be happy to answer more questions about it if you have them, but i'll just simply say that that bargain created expectations on each side that were unrealistic and that couldn't be fulfilled, and each side misread the other. the reagan people believed that they were bringing in to the republican fold reagan democrats. most patco members were democrats, though they endorsed reagan, but they were socially conservative very often, and they were sympathetic to much of what reagan stood for in a strong foreign policy, etc. republicans thought they were
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bringing in part of the labor movement behind the reagan coalition. once elected, they wanted to work with patco to offer patco a contract that they felt would reward patco for that endorsement and also signal to other unions and more conservative union members that allying with ronald reagan would be good for you. and, actually, in the negotiation that broke down that summer in 1981 the reagan administration went further than any previous administration had gone in trying to offer the controllers something. they actually did bargain with patco over what the law did not allow them to bargain over; wages and benefits. primarily wages. they made an offer to patco that no previous administration had done. the problem was that by that point that offer was so small compare today what the controllers believed that they
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would get. and their expectations were quite different. they ended up rejecting the offer. controllers looked at reagan, and they thought this man will help us really fundamentally change the system that so bothers us. and having broken with the rest of organized labor to endorse him, they expected a big breakthrough at the bargaining table, and they were disappointed by what reagan offered. and then they misread reagan as well. they saw his willingness to go that far as evidence that if they pushed him a little further, they could get more from him. and they determined to do it. they would shut down the nation's air transit system. and so came to pass the moment whose enormity jack maher began to fully grasp with less than 24 hours left before reagan's deadline. and the cold war context of that
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moment insured that it would do maximum damage to these controllers. i think publicly -- having publicly set a 48-hour deadline on national television, ronald reagan was not inclined to waver, lest he send signals that he was not a resolute leader. for this same reason, he later rejected all pleas for mercy and rehiring of controllers, even those coming from other republicans like jack kemp, then-representative, futcher vice president cial candidate for the republican party. jack kemp supported reagan's ultimatum on august 3rd, but after months passed and it was clear the strike had been broken, kemp pleaded with reagan and said, you know, mr. president, you've won. rehire these people. or at least most of them. save the country money, improve air safety and show mercy. it will be good.
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but reagan was not interested. in many ways the more expensive, the more dangerous his busting of patco was, the more that act was bound to impress one audience that reagan was determined to impress; soviet leaders. and so it came to pass that jack maher, so came to pass the moment that jack maher and so many others thought would never come, the mass firing of more than 11,000 skilled specialists and their banishment not only from their jobs, but their careers. for there was no other employer for people of this training in the united states. in many ways, i think, we're still picking through the wreckage from that collision that occurred 30 years ago now. one of the lasting legacies of that fateful event, it turns
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out, was the rapid dissolution of all u.s. workers' ability to use strikes as leverage in dealing with their employers. what reagan -- when reagan came into the rose garden on that first morning at 11 to lay down his ultimatum, he was quick to distinguish the patco strike from strikes in the private sector. he steadfastly supported private sector workers' rights to strike. he said, indeed, he reminded the audience that he had led the screen actors' guild on its first strike in 1952. but the distinction that ray began drew between patco controllers and private sector workers was quickly blurred. once the president of the united states legitimized strike breaking by firing patco's strikers, many private sector employers followed suit. the 1980s saw prominent case
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of strike breaking after patco as the number of busted strikes began to rise after 1981, workers grew afraid to use strikes anymore. the u.s. had armed about 2 -- averaged about 270 major strikes, that is strikes that involved at least a thousand workers each, about 270 a year before 1980. after 1981 that number plummeted quickly. just two years ago it was five. from 270 down to five. and in 2009 the total number of workers in the united states that engaged in a strike was about 12,000. oil workers, which is roughly the number of people who walked out on august 3, 1981, in one particularly infamous strike. workers no longer had the power to strike, and they did not in the united states today.
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no one likes strikes, but we may come to like a strikeless world even less than a world in which workers feel that they have that power, for there's no tout that the erosion -- no doubt that the erosion of workers' ability to pressure employers, each unreasonable ones, their loss of that power has accelerated the inequality that's now so ram pant in this country. income inequality that now is approaching levels not seen in a century. i think there's one final legacy that i'll touch on about the patco strike. just as reagan's decision to bust patco changed patterns of private sector labor relations, it also formed new political -- forged new political patterns, i think, in this country. remember, ronald reagan entered political office seeking the support of a union, seeking its
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endorsement, patco. but he left office largely giving up on the prospect of a republican labor alliance. nor did any republican successors to reagan show much interest in reaching out to the labor movement. in fact, reagan's act of strike breaking helped inspire a new generation of conservatives far more anti-union than reagan, the former union leader, had ever been. we see evidence of this, i think, all around us today. last spring, for example, when governor scott walker in wisconsin prepared to roll back collective bargaining rights in his state, he pointed to reagan's breaking of patco as his inspiration. never for a minute did walker consider that reagan, his hero, had never opposed collective bargaining for government workers. indeed, reagan had gone further than any previous president in his efforts to bargain with
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patco. he had only opposed strikes by federal workers. but by 2011 this no longer mattered. time had changed what it meant to be a conservative. conservatives now by and large opposed group ons in any form, and as a result partisan bickering now paralyzes all efforts to discuss let alone pass any effort to reform our outdated labor laws. i think in many ways what happened to patco 30 years ago helped lead us to the moment we're now in as a nation. it is not, i think, a good moment to be a worker in the united states. indeed, it's not a good moment for america in many ways. in the title of my book, "collision course," is meant to
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allude as much to this moment as to the one that came about in 1981. surveying the state of working class america today -- declining real wages, an inability to claim productivity gains that come from workers' labor back to workers in the form of increased income, retirements growing increasingly insecure, workers too afraid to risk organizing unions -- it's hard to escape the conclusion that we're on an unsustainable path as inequality grows and that we're headed for a collision that could make the tragedy of 1981 pale in comparison. headed for a collision between the thwarted aspirations of today's workers and the grim realities that they are now
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facing in which the future seems to hold less promise than the past for american workers. and so by telling this story of a tragedy for this nation and workers in 1981, this book is also meant to serve as a warning. it's a warning that we take stock of our own moment, that we hear the cries of those for whom our system has ceaseed to work, the forgotten people who work out of sight. i was often struck that one of the main problems the air traffic controllers faced was nobody saw them do their work. you see your flight attendant, you see your pilot, right? and at the end of the flight the pilot is there, and you can thank them. but the other people who got you there are invisible. and in many ways i think they're
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a metaphor for much of america today who are invisible to us and who are suffering out of sight. it's important, i think, that we think about this moment in light of the story that i have to tell. and that we think about the wisdom that comes in a proverb that i use to open this book and that we heed that wisdom. the proverb goes like this: the beginning of strife is like the opening of a dam, therefore, settle a quarrel before it begins. thank you very much. [applause] >> let's take a few minutes for questions. if you've got a question, please, raise your hand. we'll recognize it, but, please, wait for the microphone.
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>> professor, i was a controller. i'm sorry, hold the mic. i remember the instructions. i was a controller during all that time. i was in the military and then a controller in new york. and one of the things that we were told was there was a 300,000-member postal group onready to go out, and president reagan used the controllers as an example. so he fired the 15,000 to keep the 300,000-member postal group onbecause he didn't want to lose them. did you -- >> that's a very interesting, and it's an important question. the summer of 1981 a lot of things were going on, and one of them was that postal workers were in the middle of negotiating a contract. now, the postal workers had tentatively agreed on a contract with the federal government before the air traffic controllers walked out, but they were voting on that contract by mail. and that vote would continue
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well into august. and the reagan administration was mindful of the fact that if it did cave in to, as it saw it, controller demands in this strike, postal workers would immediately reject the contract that had been tentatively agreed to by their leaders. they would vote it down, and they would want whatever patco got and would strike if it took it to get that. it was on the minds of the reagan people, but i would say this, that even more present on their minds was the idea that even if postal workers with respect out there threat -- with respect out there threatening to have their own job action, they did not want the image of a president being forced to back down. and they were determined even if the postal workers weren't there, they were determined to do that.
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still, that was on people's minds, nonetheless. it's a good question. yes. >> in 1978 president jimmy carter signed the civil service reform act. >> that's right. >> the result of that was to make federal sector collective bargaining statutory. >> with yes. >> and so my question is what, if any, impact that event had on the direction that patco was to go. >> that's a wonderful question, and i alluded earlier to the fact that collective bargaining rights first came to the federal government through an executive order by john kennedy. nixon then issued one that widened somewhat. but it wasn't until 1978 as the questioner says that this was written into a law passed by congress that federal workers had certain rights. i tell the story of the 1978
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civil service reform act in my book, and i explain that it deeply disappointed air traffic controllers and some others in the federal government. the treasury employees' union, for example. and both patco and the treasury employees' unions were two of the unions pushing hardest for one thing to be include inside that bill. they wanted the right to negotiate over pay. and that bill did not give federal workers that right. they were, it was one reason why they were so disappointed with carter, because they believed that carter should have given them that right. and, in fact fers it was after 1978 and they realized that no law would come in to give them the right to bargain that they started to think the only way that they could get it was through militancy. that they would accomplish by walking out what the congress had not given them in the 1978 bill. but your question is super, and it gets at up with of the real
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cruxes of this story which is what happened in the carter years that many people in labor felt were so disappointing for people in labor. not just public sector folks, but many in the labor movement. and that helped to fuel ted kennedy's challenge to carter, the abortive challenge in the primaries in 1980. but they were deeply disappointed with that bill. yeah. wait until the mic gets to you. >> yeah. i wondered if you agree with my perception as a former federal employee that reagan really disliked federal government employees and thought us superfluous for the most part. i don't know he thought about the controllers. and, you know, the first thing he did when he left the dais being sworn in was to freeze federal employees. >> that's right. >> then he abolished the program
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i'd been working in, then he tried to abolish two departments, including mine, and then in '84 he came up with a retirement system which was far, um, inferior to what existed. so is my perception wrong? >> no, i don't think your perception is wrong. i mean, there is one thing we associate with ronald reagan, and i think it's accurate, he thought government was too big. and he thought there were too many federal workers, and he believed much more in private sector, of course, than he did in government. and i think that morale among federal workers plummeted in the early 1980s. you know, one of the best accounts of this that i've read is haines johnson's, the journalist's, book, it's called "sleep walking through history, a history of the reagan years." and he talks about the impact of
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reagan's seeming neglect of the federal workers on the federal workers themselves. i don't think your perception is all that wrong. i would add, though, one thing. that i think in history we've assumed that ray taliban was more -- reagan was more anti-union than, in fact, he really was. and in part i think that's partly what happened with the patco situation that colored him in history in that particular way. while he thought government was too big, he never did oppose the idea of collective bargaining in the government. in fact, you know, and this is something that many conservatives today would probably be surprised by. as governor of california, he signed a bill, the meyers/brown act that brought collective bargaining to localities, government localities throughout the state. so that's an important thing to add to our perception of reagan. but i think your perception is right. >> do you feel that -- bush was the one, bush ii that really
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wanted to contract out everything he could. did he ever try to contract out -- >> reagan, reagan appointed some people here might recall the grace commission. in the 1980s. and the whole idea behind it was to bring private sector minds together to figure out how government could be done better. and not surprisingly, a lot of those folks said, well, if you contract out this work, it'll actually be better. um, and it'll be more efficient, and it'll be cheaper. by the way, i should say some recent studies have shown that contracting is actually more expensive. >> less effective. >> and often less effective. so i don't think historically those things have panned out, but that was a push in the reagan years, too, and it was widened, you're right, in the bush years. >> what do you think the future of the air traffic control profession is given the timeline
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from the early 1980s and retirements taking place recently? >> that's an excellent question, and it's up with of the ways that -- up with of the ways that we're still, in fact, kind of in the shadow of what happened 30 years ago. because the loss of more than 10,000 people created a huge hole that had to be filled by a massive training program and rehiring in the years after the strike. and that set up a whole cohort of controllers who came into the work in the early '80s who were reaching retirement almost simultaneously in the past five or so years. and that quick turnover of senior controllers has, in fact, lowered the arm -- average age of controllers in recent years,
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and from folks who i talk to who are still around air traffic control, it's made it harder. anybody who knows air traffic control knows the only way you really learn that work was to have senior controllers sitting with you and mentoring you and going on their check rides with you as they were called. that's the way folks learn, and there are fewer of the senior hands on today due to that blip of the loss of so many suddenly in recent years. so i think that the impact is still there to this day. >> well, i want to thank everyone. i think this was a fascinating topic tonight. and as joe said, it's one that still stays with us today, the implications of it. so, please, join me in thanking joe mccartin one more time. [applause]
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and if you'll join us in the lobby, joe's going to be signing copies of his book. thank you very much. >> thank you, everybody. [inaudible conversations] >> this event was hosted by the jimmy carter presidential library and museum in atlanta. to find out more visit [inaudible conversations] story of the civil rights movement can't be told without birmingham, alabama, and this weekend booktv and american history tv look behind the scenes at the history and literary life of this southern city. on booktv on c-span2, september 15th, 1963, a bomb rocks the 16th st


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