August 5

This Day in History

General Interest

Aug 5, 1981:

Reagan fires 11,359 air-traffic controllers

On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan begins firing 11,359 air-traffic controllers striking in violation of his order for them to return to work. The executive action, regarded as extreme by many, significantly slowed air travel for months.

Two days earlier, on August 3, almost 13,000 air-traffic controllers went on strike after negotiations with the federal government to raise their pay and shorten their workweek proved fruitless. The controllers complained of difficult working conditions and a lack of recognition of the pressures they face. Across the country, some 7,000 flights were canceled. The same day, President Reagan called the strike illegal and threatened to fire any controller who had not returned to work within 48 hours. Robert Poli, president of the Professional Air-Traffic Controllers Association (PATCO), was found in contempt by a federal judge and ordered to pay $1,000 a day in fines.

On August 5, an angry President Reagan carried out his threat, and the federal government began firing the 11,359 air-traffic controllers who had not returned to work. In addition, he declared a lifetime ban on the rehiring of the strikers by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). On August 17, the FAA began accepting applications for new air-traffic controllers, and on October 22 the Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified PATCO.

Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

What Happened on Your Birthday?

Pick a Date

Shop HISTORY

  • Civil War: Rebellion to Reconstruction DVD Set

    Civil War: Rebellion to Reconstruction DVD Set

    Experience the turbulent events that ignited the bloodiest, most divisive war this country has known.

  • WWII in HD DVD Set

    WWII in HD DVD Set

    The only people to see the war like this were the ones who lived it. Until now… Own this best-selling series today!

  • Vietnam War DVD Set

    Vietnam War DVD Set

    America's first televised war comes starkly and comprehensively alive in this sweeping documentary collection.