Two days later, on the basis of an obscure and previously unenforced 1955 law banning strikes by government unions, Reagan fired all 11,359 controllers who had defied his back-to-work order. Thus began a massive government union-busting operation that ended with the permanent dismissal and blacklisting of the workers, the seizure of PATCO’s finances, and the decertification of the union.
It included the spectacle of PATCO leaders being led to jail in shackles and FBI agents and federal marshals converging on the picket lines. Four PATCO members were jailed by the federal government in the spring and summer of 1983 for participating in the strike. Ron May, Gary Greene and Lee Grant were leaders of PATCO in the Dallas-Ft. Worth region. Along with Dick Hoover in Houston, they were singled out by the Reagan administration for their militant role in the strike, convicted on felony charges of striking against the government, imprisoned, fined and permanently stripped of their civil rights. [...]
The defeat of PATCO was the signal for a wave of union-busting, wage-cutting and mass layoffs carried out by big business in every sector of the American economy. Once again, the fierce resistance of workers in auto, steel, the mines, the airlines, meatpacking, transport and other industries was sabotaged by the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions. The result was a vast decline in the social position of the working class, the destruction of gains won in previous decades of struggle, and an immense growth of social inequality.
The consolidation of the financial oligarchy that dominates every aspect of American society and plunders the social wealth to increase its already staggering personal wealth is directly bound up with the betrayal of the PATCO strike and the struggles that followed. These betrayals set the stage for the intensified attack on jobs and living standards that is now under way, with General Motors and Ford slashing tens of thousands of jobs and gutting health and retirement benefits, and the auto parts maker Delphi demanding wage cuts of 60 percent.
(Thanks to Nick P for the correction – it’s World Socialist Web Site, not World Socialist Worker)