A year ago, thousands of Wisconsin workers filled the statehouse and streets of Madison protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) attack on their collective bargaining rights. The battle reverberated beyond the borders of Wisconsin, triggering a nationwide dialogue on collective bargaining.
Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order opening the door for 2 million federal employees to join unions. His action set the stage for expanding these rights under Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter—a bipartisan recognition that federal employees should have a voice on the job.
Jim Morin was a former Air Force air traffic controller when he joined the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1977 and was assigned to one of the busiest airports in the nation, New York’s LaGuardia, where he became secretary-treasurer of the PATCO local.
Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan fired the nation’s air traffic controllers after they walked out on strike, signaling an escalation in the war on workers and the middle class that is still being waged three decades later.
When 12,000 U.S. air traffic controllers went on strike 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan threatened that if they were not back on the job in 48 hours, they would be fired. Two days later, 11,000 of them, all members of PATCO, were terminated and permanently replaced. The PATCO strike not only changed the lives of those involved, who were unable to ever work again in their field, it proved to be a key turning point in this nation for workers seeking a voice at their workplaces, according to Georgetown University professor Joseph McCartin.
Georgetown University Aramark workers, students and faculty joined in a panel this week to describe their successful campaign to organize a union of Aramark food service workers with UNITEHERE. Two workers from the union organizing committee, two student activists and Georgetown History professor Michael Kazin (who wrote a piece on the campaign in The New Republic) spoke on a panel moderated by the Kalmanovitz Initiative’s Executive Director Joseph McCartin.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on workers provides a rare watershed opportunity for working people to educate the public about unions and collective bargaining and to create momentum to rebuild the union movement.