Digitizing the PATCO Records

Scanning assistant Brenton at work on the PATCO documents

Work on scanning the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) records began this spring in the University Library’s Digital Library Services Department.

PATCO was shut down by the Reagan administration in 1981 after the air controllers union organized a strike that crippled air traffic in the United States that year.   PATCO had supported Ronald Reagan in his 1980 bid for President and in return was promised that the federal government would back the union’s  efforts to secure better working conditions for its members.  But this alliance would not last. When negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration failed, the union went on strike against the federal government on August 3, 1981, in violation of their contract.  In turn, Reagan summarily fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers and disbanded the union.  The fall of PATCO is considered a major landmark in the history of labor relations in the United States in latter half of the 20th century.

When complete the digitized collection will provide online access to most of the union’s national records –an estimated 170,000 pages. The PATCO records are part of the Southern Labor Archives, a collecting area in the Library’s Special Collections and Archives department.  Work on the project is expected to take approximately 20 months; at its completion, all scanned documents will be searchable, for free, by anyone with Internet access. The project is funded by a grant awarded to the Georgia State University Library from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

For more information about the digitization project, contact Barbara Petersohn, Digital Projects and Grants Librarian, Georgia State University Library, bpetersohn@gsu.edu.

National Historical Publications and Records Administration

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