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Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike That Changed America
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Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike That Changed America

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  100 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews

On August 3, 1981, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, representing 12,000 federal employees, called an illegal strike. Ronald Reagan, president for less than seven months, fired the strikers, establishing a reputation for prompt resolution, not to mention hostility toward organized labor. But as Joseph A. McCartin writes, the PATCO strike was much more

Hardcover, 472 pages
Published October 6th 2011 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published September 8th 2011)
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Frank Stein
Feb 03, 2012 Frank Stein rated it it was amazing
This has to be the best history on federal government unions out there, made even more impressive because it is tied to the fascinating story of the most important event in late-20th century union politics, the breaking of the PATCO air traffic controllers strike of 1981.

McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown University, starts with the first description I have read of the writing of Executive Order 10988 by President Kennedy in 1962, the order that allowed federal sector unions to engage in
Kier O'Neil
Mar 29, 2012 Kier O'Neil rated it liked it
Shelves: history, politics
I am now 50% through this book and can now honestly raise my ranking from 2-stars to 3-stars.
The author settled down and started offering facts and insights like a real documentarian. This book was only a few pages from being tossed into the proverbial fireplace.
I still contend that this book is far too long. 500 PAGES!!. I'm getting a huge backlog of books building up while I try to get through this one. I'm hoping that 15-20% of the book are references. Note: I'm reading the electronic version
This is a very important book about a very important incident in US history. A union that had air traffic employees as its members named PATCO, decided to strike illegally for better pay and better working conditions. It defied a president who had been the only one to ever lead a labor union and he fired them all and banned them from finding jobs within the FAA. This happened when Ronald Reagan was president in 1981 and public unions never recovered from the strike. It has gradually led to the d ...more
Anthony Darienzo
Sep 06, 2014 Anthony Darienzo rated it really liked it
I am a retired Supervisory Air Traffic Controller. I spent most of my career at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, (including the years before, during and after the strike) a facility much mentioned in the book. Collision Course is a well written concise history of air transportation, air traffic control and the strike. I do not agree with many of the authors statements concerning first line supervisors at the New York Center being in essence, too tough or unconcerned.

One thing that
Robert Beveridge
Mar 30, 2014 Robert Beveridge rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in how the government took over the world.
Joseph A. McCartin, Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America (Oxford University Press, 2011)

full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

I was born in 1968. So in 1981 I was thirteen years old, and I was growing up in a staunch Republican family (though one who preferred to get their news from MacNeil and Lehrer; I still haven't figured out how to reconcile that). I was not terribly politically aware, partial
Pierre Lauzon
Feb 07, 2014 Pierre Lauzon rated it really liked it
This outstanding history begins with the December 13, 1960 midair collision between a United Air Lines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation over the skies of New York City. It ends with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker removing the rights of public employee union collective bargaining in his state.

The book goes through the history of U.S. air controllers and the formation of PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. It follows the union through its demise after Ronald Reagan fir
Aug 05, 2015 J.S. rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-america, vine
Several years ago I saw an interesting but depressing movie with Michael Douglas called "Falling Down." It starts off with Douglas sitting in Los Angeles freeway traffic, except the traffic isn't moving at all and there seems to be no reason. He gets so frustrated that he gets out and just walks away from his car. He tries to get change at a small market to make a phone call - he's late for his son's birthday party - but the owner says he has to buy something. Unfortunately, everything is over a ...more
Jun 30, 2014 Ben added it
By the late 1970s, pro-market republicans were winning the rhetorical battle over public sector union organizing, leaving Democrats little room to stake out their own positions—those friendly to the unions were painted as fiscally irresponsible, those taking an anti-union line seemed to be aping the Republican position. The war on public sector unions came to a dramatic head in 1981, when Ronald Reagan fired 11,345 striking members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) ...more
Jan 08, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing

Collision Course by Joseph McCartin provides an interesting look at the labor disputes of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) that led to the mass firing of Air Traffic Controllers during an illegal strike under Ronald Reagan's presidency. McCartin looks at the development of PATCO starting in the 1960's at its formation in what would become La Guardia. The author then tracks in very exacting detail the steps that formed PATCO a
Michael Griswold
Dec 13, 2012 Michael Griswold rated it really liked it
Joseph A. McCarin in writing Collision Course: Ronald Regan, the air traffic controllers and The Strike that Changed America has written a readable, yet engaging account of the thirty year history of air traffic controllers efforts to unionize and the political ramifications of these efforts that eventually culminated in the 1981 strike and dismissal of controllers.

McCarin gets extra points for tying this history to present day efforts to curb the bargaining of public sector unions. The best his
Aug 25, 2012 Bap rated it really liked it
Shelves: labor, non-fiction
Remember PATCO, the doomed union of air traffic controllers who in August 1981 called an illegal strike designed to force the federal government to sweeten its contract offer. The strike was illegal in two regards first it was attempting to force the Feds to negotiate concerning wages which is not permitted by federal law and more importantly strkes by federal workers are unlawful.

The union seriously overplayed its hand by not stopping at the brink when they had wrested concessions from the gov'
Apr 28, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
A pivotal moment in the recent history of American organized labor related by an author who clearly knows his subject. Contrary to what one might expect from the title, it's not just about the strike- it goes into the full backstory, presenting the history of air traffic controllers and organized labor and all that was simmering in the background leading up to the strike. In all honesty, it probably deserves a fourth star, but two things detracted from my enjoyment of the book. First, it was a b ...more
Todd Wilhelm
Nov 13, 2013 Todd Wilhelm rated it it was amazing
This book had obvious appeal to me since I spent my career in the FAA as an air traffic controller and was always active in NATCA. Hired in April of 1983 and a charter member of NATCA I can identify strongly with the problems faced by PATCO. As McCartin stated in the book, within two years of Reagan firing all the PATCO controllers efforts were already underway by the new recruits to get a union to represent us. As we were known to say they fired all the controllers, but the heavy handed authori ...more
Online Eccentric Librarian
Jul 24, 2014 Online Eccentric Librarian rated it really liked it

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This is almost a textbook on the subject: very thoroughly researched and brimming with detail and information spanning several decades before and after the fateful PATCO strike. It is one of those books that will not leave you asking questions about the who, what, where, and when. However, when it comes to the 'why', I do feel the bias shows in the writer's perspective. That said, a subjectively written work on history m
Aug 25, 2014 Arvind rated it really liked it
A book about how the air traffic controllers in the 1970s thought they were the masters of the sky and started arm twisting the American government for more money only to have their arms amputated by none other than President Reagan. Engrossing.
Deborah Davidson
This book reads more like a novel than a true story. The air controller strike was a turning point in the union story of this county. This is an important book that anyone who cares about the history of labor should read.
Dec 02, 2011 Hilary rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-copy
I was a little thrown by my own expectations, here - from the (sub)title, I thought this was a book about the PATCO strike. Actually, it's about the entire history of the air traffic controller industry. The strike doesn't occur till 250+ pages in. This made me a bit impatient as I was reading it, but in retrospect it offered a pretty important background and context for what was to come. This made a nice supplement to my labor law class but there's not actually a lot of law in it, and I think i ...more
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