17 June 2013

[liff, logo] Reagan Busted The Air Traffic Controllers Union and All I Got Was This Used License Plate Frame

2945.Here's a delightful yet bittersweet find. Got this from the Salvation Army over at NE 122nd  and Halsey (it used to be a Goodwill before the Goodwill got schmancy new digs just south of there) yesterday.

It's a bit of organized labor history, tho' the provenance must be, for the time being, in doubt:

It's a license plate frame from … PATCO. The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization.

Those of you who are not enlightened as to recent labor history (and that's just about everyone these days) probably don't know from PATCO. Sherman, let's set the Wayback Machine to 1981. Reagan had been in office about a year and a half, and PATCO, in an effort to improve working conditions, struck.

Now, to be complete about it, there were a lot of centrifugal forces in play. Reagan and his team were busy hammering the anti-union key on the Mighty Wurlitzer, and PATCO made some miscued moves on its own … for instance, in the 1980 campaign they supported Reagan over Carter, in dissatisfaction with the way that the Carter-era FCC was treating them (to be fair here, Reagan endorsed the union and expressed support for their struggle, so maybe being a little to credulous was their real sin here. Coulda-shoulda-woulda).

They got what they wanted, and they were about to get it good and hard, as they found out. It may have been Morning in America, but for PATCO, it was about to strike midnight. When PATCO went on strike on August of '81, they did it illegally; there was (and probably still is) a provision in Federal law outlawing strikes by such organizations.

I guess they felt pretty confident. In reality, they overplayed their hand; on the 3rd of August, they struck, and on the 5th of August, they were unemployed. This left a mark on civil aviation that took the best part of a decade to erase, and a mark on labor in America that survives … tragically … to this day.

So it was ironic that I should find such at artifact at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, for a surfeit of reasons. But there it was. Priced to move at $2.99 (but with an earlier sticker that says someone once charged fifty cents for it … good thing I got it before the price went up any more).

The PATCO logo:

is a pretty faithful adaptation of the famous standard logo treatment:

… and the giveaway is the style of the plane, which is dead on target.

As I said, the provenance of this artifact is a matter of debate. The bare metal areas are fairly shiny and well-kept. The paint on the detail has suffered some flaking, though, which indicates age; I'd be willing to bet there's a significant chance that this was from the 70s-80s, when the Long Dark Night of American Labor was getting underway.

Some form of successor to PATCO seems to exist.

And so it goes.

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