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Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America by [McCartin, Joseph A.]
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4.4 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Length: 499 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


"Simply one of the best-written labor histories I have ever read." -Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society

"Mr. McCartin deals with policy but also with personalities, and the book is better for it. For anyone at all interested in labor or business history, I recommend it. " --The New York Times

"[C]onvincing...draws a vivid picture of a culture and how, as much as the realities an organization faces, that culture can determine the group's behavior." --The Philadelphia Inquirer

"[McCartin] patiently lays out the full background and aftermath of the PATCO tragedy in Collision Course, an absorbing, detailed and shrewdly observed chronicle of the strike and PATCO's unlikely rise and fall." --The Nation

"The definitive account of the PATCO strike...Collision Course's treatment of worker and political power should help inform trade unions' strategies today, and perhaps prompt discussion of how to revitalize the greatest source of worker power: the strike." --In These Times

"The air traffic controllers' strike in August 1981 was a defining moment for the Reagan presidency and the American labor movement. By firing the air traffic controllers, and successfully replacing them, Reagan heralded the end of a political era when labor unions - and the workers they represented - were an integral part of the American social contract. Joseph McCartin tells the story in gripping detail. It's must reading for anyone interested in the recent history of American politics and labor relations." --John B. Judis, author of The Folly of Empire

"The signal event in the evisceration of the American middle class was Ronald Reagan's breaking the air traffic controllers' strike in 1981. In Collision Course, Joe McCartin brilliantly and compellingly tells this tragic tale, and situates it in the broader narrative of middle-class America's long and sickening decline." --Harold Meyerson, Editor-at-Large of The American Prospect and op-ed columnist for The Washington Post

"In an age of obscurantist academic historical writing, Collision Course stands out as a model of accessible and relevant scholarship." --National Review

"The Air Traffic Controllers strike of 1981 was one of the most important struggles in American history, and by breaking the union, Ronald Reagan dealt a blow to organized labor from which it has still not recovered. If you care about the labor movement, you need to read Collision Course and even if you don't, you'll be transfixed by the drama of McCartin's story-telling." --E.J. Dionne, syndicated columnist and author of Why Americans Hate Politics

"[a] wonderfully good book... In this admirable account of President Ronald Reagan's destruction of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) in 1981-1982, McCartin shows not merely where that destruction fits into a long narrative of the decline of organized labor in the United States but also how tensions between controllers and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) might have been resolved differently." --Journal of American History

"McCartin tells the story of PATCO before its inception to years after the conclusion of the strike, a fascinating story with many twists and turns." --Contemporary Sociology

About the Author

Joseph A. McCartin is Professor of History at Georgetown University and Director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3183 KB
  • Print Length: 499 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 6, 2011)
  • Publication Date: October 6, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005G05WES
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #508,728 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 25, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Anyone who remembers 1981 remembers the day the air traffic controllers went out on strike. President Reagan ordered them to report back to work within 48 hours or else. Those who didn't (only 10% of those striking returned to work) were fired.

In Collision Course, labor historian Joseph McCartin has written an account of the formation of PATCO (the Professional Air Traffic Controllers' Organization), the strike, and what happened after Reagan fired the controllers.

Collision Course is no dull labor history. It's told almost like a thriller. McCartin refers early in the book to Arthur Hailey's novel Airport. I think he may have been inspired by Hailey to keep it punchy, because even though you know how the PATCO story ends, it's still quite exciting to read about the events leading up to the inevitable clash of union and employer.

McCartin tells many sides to the story that I wasn't aware of at the time. Reagan's decision to act tough had just as much to do with foreign policy as it did with labor relations. He was dealing with the Soviets and needed to appear decisive and ruthless.

McCartin also tells how the controller population was overwhelmingly male, white, and ex-military. The chapters on how the black controllers and the women controllers created ways to succeed despite the institutional prejudice they faced is actually quite inspiring. It's possible that the tendency for the white men of PATCO to see things from a narrow point of view was part of their downfall. PATCO dismissed the concerns of the few blacks and women among their numbers, and they also failed to consider how their increasing demands might appear to the American taxpayers.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Collision Course" by Joseph A. McCartin is an authoritative history of PATCO and its ill-fated confrontation with the Ronald Reagan administration. An associate professor of history at Georgetown University, Mr. McCartin's thorough research includes the review of thousands of news reports and documents as well as interviews with over one hundred people who participated in the event. The end result is an extraordinarily well-written book that brings new insight to a seminal event in late 20th century American labor relations and helps us understand why it remains relevant to us today.

Mr. McCartin explains how an air disaster in 1960 compelled air traffic controllers to become more vocal about conditions at the FAA where overwork, stress and faulty equipment in the towers had pushed controllers to the limit. We learn how controllers Michael Rock and Jack Maher organized PATCO with the help of legendary trial lawyer F. Lee Bailey. Mr. McCartin takes us inside to witness the drama as the fledgling union struggled with the FAA through years of sick outs, rolling delays and other job actions that generally resulted in winning modest gains for workers while often testing the patience of pilots and the flying public.

Mr. McCartin discusses how the junior controllers who joined the union in the 1970s were not as inclined as their seniors to accept the FAA's 'Theory X' style of dictatorial management. These so-called 'choirboys' found a champion in Robert Poli who, as PATCO's new president, expressed a desire to confront the FAA to resolve long-festering problems in the workplace. Meanwhile, Mr.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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 and the efforts they undertook from sickouts to slowdowns to the preparations for an eventual strike against the oaths controllers signed the day they became controllers. This strike would become a monumental occasion marking one of the largest strikes in one of the most critical industries that had the potential to slide the American recession deeper and jeopardize hundreds if not thousands of lives. On the other side you have the incompetent management of the FAA that marginalized the requests of its workers and led to the build up of resentment that occurred during the 70's and into the 80's.
McCartin does an excellent job of looking at the angles from labors perspective and how it fit into the social consciousness of the time and the social trends of air traffic controllers. After 250 pages of this analysis Ronald Reagan enters the picture facing a volatile labor situation. One area that McCartin downplays was not only the air traffic controllers striking at this time but a possible postal worker strike were fomenting around the same time as the controllers. This combination combined with the public posture of the PATCO leadership led to an inevitable conflict that resulted in Reagan (the only president to lead a union) to fire every controller who went on strike.
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