Friday, March 25, 2011

Incident at Reagan National the product of a 30 year history…

The incident at Reagan National Airport is almost poetic in its irony. Exactly 30 years ago this coming August, President Ronald Reagan fired all of the nation’s over 11,000 air traffic controllers, busting PATCO the controller’s union and replacing them with less experienced replacement workers. Not only did Reagan’s move turn out to be the opening salvo in a 30 year long war on the American working class, the latest battle of which we are seeing waged in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and other states currently, but it dramatically reduced safety for the flying public. It is one of the clearest examples of the right wing’s disregard for worker rights and public safety when it interferes with their objective of leaner, meaner government.

Over the past 30 years, the air traffic controllers were able to re-organize into the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), but their power is nothing like that of PATCO 30 years ago. One outcome of this reduced power is that their regular complaints of un-safe staffing levels have gone largely unheeded. On Labor Express Radio over the past several years, primarily through our WIN segment (Workers Independent News), which has had excellent coverage of this topic, we have continually addressed NATCA’s desperate calls for attention to sever staffing problems at our airport’s control towers. Nothing highlighted the problem better than the Aug. 27, 2006 incident at the airport in Lexington, Kentucky when 49 people lost their lives aboard Comair Flight 191 because there was only one controller in the tower handling multiple controllers' responsibilities.

Now we see the right wing pushing for severe budget cuts at the federal and state levels for everything from fire departments to nuclear power plant safety. At the same time they are attempting to savage public sector unions much like Reagan did in 1981. Infamous Republican Governor Scott Walker regularly attributes his inspiration to his hero Reagan. How many lives will be lost to the Reagan philosophy on government and public safety? How many families will pay the price of the right wing’s budget cuts and union bashing either through increased poverty or lost family members? And for God sakes, can we now rename Reagan National for a real American hero as opposed to the right wing’s favorite anti-labor cult figure? How about for Steve Wallaert, President of PATCO Local 292, the first PATCO member to be JAILED by Reagan when he resisted the firing of the air traffic controllers. Now there’s a hero for you.

Here is a link to NATCA’s statement on the recent incident at Wallaert (I mean Reagan) National Airport

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