Unions were just one of several items on President Ronald Reagan's cutback agenda when he took office in 1981, but they were high on that agenda. He received an unexpected, and even unwanted, opportunity to zap labor at the outset of his presidency. PATCO (the air traffic controllers' union), which had supported him for the presidency after years of relative failure under Democratic presidents, threatened to violate federal law by going on strike. Although Reagan initially tried to arrange a very generous settlement with the union, its adamant and frustrated leaders demanded even more. The president then felt he had no other recourse but to fire them, and the legend of his determination to set an example by breaking the union began to develop


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