Ronald Reagan's America - Vol. 1

By Eric J. Schmertz; Natalie Datlof et al. | Go to book overview

16
The Labor Policies of the Reagan Administration

Herbert R. Northrup

Although the discharge of 11,000 air traffic controllers as a result of an illegal strike was one of the dramatic actions of President Ronald Reagan, labor policy and labor relations were not top priority considerations of his administration. Part of the reason was practical: No realist believed that the votes existed in Congress to enact major labor legislative changes, nor that a change in labor policy would be more significant than altering the tax structure to spur the economy, bringing inflation under control, or regaining America's number-one posture in the world by enhancing military capability. Nevertheless, significant changes were made during the eight years of the administration, some of which are already being reversed by President Clinton "Reverse Reaganism" or even previously were set back after the Republican loss of Senate control in 1986 and the later accession of the self-termed "kinder and gentler" Bush administration.

In this brief chapter, Reagan policies relating to appointments, appropriations, and actions involving unions are summarized, including the controversies over the Davis-Bacon Act and the discharge of the flight controllers. In conclusion, the extent to which the Reagan alterations of policy may have a lasting impact is discussed.


DEREGULATING LAST MINUTE REGULATIONS

Following their defeat in the 1980 elections, Carter administration officials spent their last months in office instituting regulations and handing out grants. 1 President Reagan's first official action was to issue an executive order freezing federal civilian employment. Then, he set up a review committee under the then vice president, George Bush, to review these regulations "with the goal of

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