Robert E. Poli, president of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association, yesterday visited a meeting of PATCO Local 204 members in Leesburg and complained about press coverage of their strike.
"It's been pretty one-sided," Poli said. "PATCO . . . is a very small organization."
He urged the media to investigate the safety of the air traffic control system, which now is operating with the help of military personnel and supervisors at about 75 percent capacity.
About 300 controllers gathered in the Leesburg Quality Inn for an hour-long open meeting before Poli's arrival. In hostile tones, a number of them also charged that media reports on the strike were grossly biased against the controllers.
When Poli arrived at the hotel, reporters were evicted from the meeting room. After about half an hour Poli emerged from the meeting and said that "support for the strike is across the whole country. We are all confident as we always are and we are withstanding the intimidation of the government."
Poli warned that the air traffic system is on the verge of collapse.
"Let's see what happens this week," he said. Poli added that he was certain negotiations with the government would resume soon "because they just can't operate this system."