Sunday, September 28, 2014
Robert Poli, who led 1981 strike that led Reagan to fire traffic controllers, dies at 78
This WaPo obituary sheds some light on the man that led the most unsuccessful work stoppage in American labor history. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed executive order 10988 that permitted collective bargaining with the federal work force. Things mushroomed from there. However, even though federal, and ultimately other public employees, were able to organize, they weren't in exactly the same position as unions in the private sector. When someone goes to work for the federal government they sign an oath not to engage in a work stoppage. Going on strike not only violates this oath, which is grounds for mandatory dismissal, but also violates the law. When Poli advised his membership to engage in a work stoppage, he gave Ronald Reagan, once the head of the Screen Actors Guild, license to fire them. Planes continued to take off and land with replacement workers drawn from controllers that honored their oath and trained military personnel. Poli disappeared from the national spotlight and the public employee unions suffered a real but temporary setback.