The following is a guest post by Bacilio Mendez II, an intern in the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress.
For many Americans, summer means family barbecues and baseball, but there are those among us who dread this warmest of seasons for one reason in particular – flying. After the fireworks and general sense of national camaraderie of Independence Day fade from memory, the luggage comes out and the quiet rancor of summer sets in. Pteromechanophobiacs aside, if you are someone who doesn’t particularly care for standing in seemingly endless lines or suffering through the antics of children much less well-behaved than your own, just remember that it could be worse.
Forty-five years ago today, a forty-three day strike, the longest airline strike in American history, began after negotiations between the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and the representatives of five major airlines (United, Northwest, National, Trans World, and Eastern) broke down. The strike lasted from July 8 – August 19, 1966, completely obliterating vacation season for some Americans while also stranding others.
To give you an idea of how far-reaching the strike was, seventy percent of United States Postal Service (USPS) air transport was impacted. The USPS may account for rain, heat, and gloom of night, but it was certainly not prepared for an airline strike of this magnitude. The strike of more than 35,000 workers even resulted in Congress amending the Railway Labor Act, during the strike, in such a way that would legally limit the number of days that such a strike could last and mandate an agreement within the new time frame. Thankfully, President Lyndon B. Johnson stepped in and the new limitations did not need to be enforced, as the carriers and IAM reached a resolution before such measures were necessary. The road to resolution, however, would be a bumpy one.
IAM rejected a White House proffered agreement after its formal announcement on July 29, 1966, much to President Johnson’s befuddlement, but accepted a plan that the then Undersecretary of Labor James J. Reynolds helped iron out. That plan provided for a 56¢ an hour raise for skilled workers, an average increase of 50¢ an hour for other non-skilled workers, and included a cost-of-living clause—a result with which IAM was quite pleased and made for a great, if nationally contentious, “What I Did on my Summer Vacation” essay.
If after reading this post you are not completely soured against the idea of summer travel, and also want to plan an educational vacation, why not build one around President Johnson? I hear that the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum is wonderful this time of year.