PATCO ruling: will rehiring follow?
Many union leaders privately are ready to accept the decertification of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO). They see it as a possible step toward the reemployment of dismissed controllers and the eventual certification of another union.
Officially, however, organized labor continues to express strong and outraged support for PATCO in what is now its legal fight for survivial. Led by Lane Kirkland, president of AFL-CIO, union leaders are denouncing President Reagan's ''union busting'' and ''vindictive'' moves against PATCO and its striking members.
At the same time, many join with Mr. Kirkland, who, while deploring efforts to decertify PATCO, says that such a step would remove ''the last semblance of an excuse'' for not rehiring most discharged controllers and restoring normal air traffic as winter sets in.
The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), which oversees government-union relations, ordered the decertification of PATCO by a 2-to-1 decision, declaring that it ''willfully and intentionally'' violated federal law when it struck on Aug. 3.
Hours later, three judges of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia temporarily stayed the decertification order after the union argued that stripping it of bargaining authority would do irreparable harm to 11,500 striking controllers and 2,000 PATCO members who stayed on the job.
The stay, to give the parties time to argue the issues, could be lifted or upheld within the next several days, but PATCO's general counsel, Richard Leighton, said in Washington that the union would continue its legal fight against decertification all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
Robert E. Poli, president of the controllers union, said, ''We are still PATCO.'' He called the FLRA move ''a blatant case of union busting,'' and said ''we are still the professional air traffic controllers who make this system work.''
Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis applauded the ''sound and responsible'' decertification order and said, ''As far as we are concerned, there is now no PATCO.'' Presidential aide Edwin Meese III called the Federal Labor RelationsAuthority order ''the only appropriate action the board could take.''
Although there are growing pressures for the reemployment of controllers who were not directly responsible for strike decisions, the government insists that no amnesty will be granted. Secretary Lewis said, ''The people working with us do not want the striking controllers back.'' Mr. Meese, speaking for the administration, said, ''All the controllers that could be brought back are those that did not violate the law against strikes against the government, and they are already working. As for those that did abandon their jobs, there's no way.''