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How Ronald Reagan’s fight with air traffic controllers forever changed labor relations

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In 1981, air traffic controllers at Washington Dulles airport called an illegal strike. President Ronald Reagan, who had been in office less than a year – and who had been endorsed by the controllers’ union – fired the striking workers.

History professor Joseph A. McCartin’s new book, “Collision Course,” chronicles the accidents and work conditions that led to the foundation of a union for air traffic controllers, the two decades of escalating conflict between air traffic controllers and the government – and how the situation turned the tide of public opinion against striking workers.


How has the public’s perception of labor unions changed? Are labor unions relevant in modern society?


Joseph A. McCartin, associate professor of history at Georgetown and author of “Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America”