The executive board of the militant organization that represents the nation's aerial traffic cops has endorsed Ronald Reagan for the presidency. Robert D. Poli, head of the 14,500-member Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, met with Reagan yesterday in Florida. PATCO's leaders charge that President Carter has mismanaged the federal civil service, and has ignored what the union says are serious safety problems that jeopardize the country's air traffic control system.
PATCO is the exclusive bargaining agent for all 17,000 controllers. It is considered one of the most aggressive of all government unions. Federal Aviation Administration brass have charged that PATCO is preparing for a strike next year during the big Easter vacation travel period. FAA cited a 110-page memo -- which it calls a "blueprint" on how to run a strike -- that PATCO sent regional officials earlier this year. Details of the memo were outlined here Oct. 5. Strikes against the government are illegal. PATCO members in the past have been involved in work-to-rule actions and sick-outs that slowed air traffic.
The union says controllers are over-worked and underpaid, and that the administration has let safety equipment deteriorate to dangerous levels. Poli charged that Carter had "consistently denigrated federal employes" and supported plans to cut back on retirement benefits for U.S. workers. Reagan says he opposes the White House plan to eliminate one of the two cost-of-living raises that federal and military retirees get. Poli said PATCO's nin-member board, which endorsed Reagan unanimously, has been assured that the California governor would provide the best leadership for federal workers, and improve the state of the air traffic control system.