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Today In History: PATCO Strike

On August 4, 1981, President Reagan began firing air traffic controllers who had participated in an illegal strike.

Just days before, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) vowed to shut the nation's airway system in a strike for better pay and working conditions.

Government employees are forbidden by law to strike against the public safety, and each air traffic controller had signed a no-strike pledge.

The PATCO strike began at 7 a.m. on Aug. 3 when more than 12,000 controllers walked out. President Reagan vowed to fire any controllers who did not return to work.

The next day, 11,443 controllers were fired by President Reagan, who chastised them for violating their no-strike oath and breaking the law.

The union was decertified, and the air controllers were forbidden from being rehired until August 1993, when President Clinton rescinded the ban.

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