Portland Leadership Institute - Nourish the Leader Within You
Leadership for the 21st Century

Ronald Reagan and Roger Goodell

Ronald Reagan had a strategy.  He merely awaited an opportunity.

When Reagan was elected President in 1980, he had been upset with the state of unionism in the US for years.  Although a former leader of the Screen Actors Guild, he would never have been classified as a union sympathizer.

In the summer of 1981 the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) engaged in an illegal strike.  To the shock of most, Reagan invoked the law and fired the strikers.

President Reagan's strategy was to change the climate of labor management relations in this country.  His goal was to send a message to large and small organizations that the power of unions was no longer to be unfettered, was no longer to be unilateral.  He succeeded.  The labor climate changed forever; the change was as significant as that created by the passage of the National Labor Relations Act during the Great Depression.

No one is sure what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's strategy is with the NFL officials.  Some say he wants to break the union; others describe less clear objectives, such as eliminating pensions, saving money, telling part timers that they are not more important than the league, etc.  The point is that nothing is clear.  

It is said that after the PATCO strikers were fired it was not safe to fly for years.  Professionals who understood the situation took long distance trains rather than flying.  One tragic midair collision would have negated Reagan's strategy; he may have been forced to rehire the strikers to again make the air corridors safe.  That collision would have forever changed the course of American labor relations.  That collision never occurred.

Roger Goodell had his midair collision.  When the Seattle-Green Bay game's result was impacted by a decision of replacement officials, the tipping point of public opinion and NFL players/coaches was reached.  As we write this, we do not know the result.

We do know that there is no clear strategic direction.  Effective labor management relations requires a clear strategy, a clear understanding of who has the power, who has the support.  We await a coherent strategy.



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