A federal judge, after months of bitter argument that promises to continue, has imposed the maximum, $250,000 fine on each of five union locals of the striking Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization in eastern Virginia.
A PATCO lawyer said the judgment, signed by U.S. District Judge Oren R. Lewis and made public yesterday in Alexandria, is certain to be appealed.
The fines resulted from contempt of court charges brought against the locals after their members ignored a federal judge's order to go back to work as the strike took effect nationwide on Aug. 3.
The locals affected are at National and Dulles International airports, the Leesburg air traffic control center and in Newport News and Norfolk.
A court hearing has been postponed until December on proposed fines of up to $5,000 against individual union leaders in Virginia. Lewis agreed to the delay after PATCO attorneys told him some of the leaders would be unwilling to testify in the civil contempt case while facing possible criminal charges for participating in an allegedly illegal strike against the government.
The heads of three Virginia locals already have been indicted in Alexandria on illegal striking charges and face one-year prison terms if convicted.
Lewis yesterday held a hearing at which the union's lawyers argued that the three had been improperly singled out for prosecution and asked that the charges be dropped. Lewis took the matter under advisement.