Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thoughts on a strike

Most people can point to a time when they were very young and say "that's where everything changed". Not that it really did, we just didn't understand hard times back then, a little bit of growing up changed all that. Rose-colored glasses are handed out for free your first few years of life.

My glasses were taken away when I was 6 years old. My dad went on strike with PATCO and was summarily fired two days later along with over 11,000 other air traffic controllers. Add in the worst recession since WWII and the natural progression of things quickly led to repossession of our house, lots of fighting, some binge-drinking (not on my part), and divorce of my parents. My first introduction to conservative policies (in this case strike-breaking) was not a pleasant one.

After that strike, all of those 11k workers were permanently banned from government employment. A good old fashioned blacklisting, but this one was legal because the president did it.

All of this because they wanted to work less hours. Something that most would consider reasonable for a person in a high-stress job that had many lives depending on them staying focused. At the time it was not uncommon for an air traffic controller to work a 60-hour week.

For real.

These are the people responsible for the safety of several thousand people an hour (at a slow period), and they worked more hours than a Chinese launderer. I remember my dad leaving for days on end when they had staff shortages, he would sleep at the tower as he'd only have a few hours between shifts.

And this isn't a job that affords itself to lots of bullshitting around the water cooler. These are traffic cops staring at a screen or out a window, talking to people miles away from them, that are moving at 290 miles an hour, and trying to keep them from touching each other.

An article on the strike I ran into recently summed up the ridiculousness of the FAA in just a few words
In June [1981], the FAA made its final offer of a $2500 pay increase, a 15% increase in pay for night work, and a guaranteed thirty-minute lunch period.
They were even going to let the controllers eat lunch, that FAA is quite the generous bunch. I can't see why the union turned them down...

1 comment:

Jane Dough said...

I'm glad you clarified that you weren't the one doing the binge drinking.