Statement on Federal Employment of Discharged Air Traffic Controllers

December 9, 1981

For the past 4-1/2 months we have kept the airways safe and the Nation's air traffic moving despite a strike by members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization.

We faced a choice last August: concede to the demands of a union engaged in an illegal strike -- or dismiss the controllers who violated their oath and walked off their jobs, and keep the airways operating with the resources available to us.

We made the only choice we could. While we regret the loss of an experienced work force, we have an even greater commitment to the people of America to uphold the principles on which this country is built -- principles of law, due process, and respect for the public trust.

Those principles have been honored, and our commitment to them remains firm. But at the same time there is another principle we honor in America -- the tradition that individuals deserve to be treated with compassion. In that spirit, I am today extending to the air traffic controllers discharged because of their actions in striking against the Federal Government, an opportunity to reapply for Federal employment, in departments and agencies other than the Federal Aviation Administration. I do not believe that those who forfeited their jobs as controllers should be foreclosed from other Federal employment. I am sure that many of those who were misled or badly advised regret their action and would welcome an opportunity to return to Federal service.

So, today I am issuing this directive to the Office of Personnel Management.

First, when the Office of Personnel Management receives applications for Federal employment from former FAA controllers terminated by their strike action, it will apply the same suitability standards as it applies to all other candidates for jobs with the Federal Government. This means that each application will be considered fairly and on a case-by-case basis.

Second, because returning the striking controllers to their former positions would adversely affect operational efficiency, damage morale, and perhaps impair safety, the former controllers will be eligible for employment consideration in any Federal agency except the Federal Aviation Administration.

I realize that these conditions prevent the ex-controllers from returning to their former jobs. But in considering an applicant for a position of public responsibility, we must take into account not only the ability to perform that job but the effect that his or her employment may have on others within the agency. This is particularly true where the effectiveness of the nation's air traffic control system and the safety of the airways are at stake.