Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 207–214 | Cite as

Reflections on PATCO’s Legacy: Labor’s Strategic Challenges Persist

  • Richard W. HurdEmail author


The 1981 PATCO strike stands out as a symbol of union decline. The penchant to stigmatize PATCO detracts from important aspects of the union’s unorthodox strategy. Preparations for 1981 negotiations were coordinated by rank-and-file activists who referred to themselves as ‘choir boys’. An extensive mobilization network cultivated by the ‘choir boys’ contributed to cohesiveness and in effect democratized PATCO. The union’s effectiveness in building internal solidarity was its most notable accomplishment. Twenty-first-century labor-movement revitalization will require not only strong, creative leadership but also rank-and-file mobilization in the mold of PATCO’s ‘choir boy’ system. It is this type of grassroots activism that has the potential to promote an internal culture of militant action which can serve as the foundation for union growth.

Key words

PATCO strikes unions mobilization 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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