What happens when you’re being taken advantage of in the workplace? Many people have joined up with Unions to prevent against issues like this. But, what recourse does one have when unionizing is out of the question, and you find yourself facing ridiculous working conditions? This was the case for the SkyLab 4 crew in December of 1973.
While disgruntled employees across many industries have, at one time or another, taken to striking in hopes of forcing their companies to renegotiate terms, in 1973, three NASA astronauts took striking to new heights… quite literally.
Even while hovering miles above the Earth, three astronauts- Jerry Carr (mission commander), Ed Gibson (science), and William Pogue (pilot)- decided they’d had quite enough of NASA’s rigorous work schedule. During their 84-day mission, these space cowboys decided to deliver the first ever ‘Space Strike’.
Even though experts on the ground agreed before launch the work schedule (comprised of 16-hour work-days on top of continuous monitoring of the Sun and other planets and space bodies) the terms of the missions were decidedly unrealistic, NASA went ahead with their strict agenda anyway.
After about a month in space, Astronaut Ed Gibson is known to have told mission control, “We would never work 16 hours a day for 84 straight days on the ground, and we should not be expected to do it here in space.”
On December 28th, 1973, the crew went on strike. The mission commander shut down their radio connection with the ground crew and the three spent the next day relaxing and working on their own projects. Well… it worked! When they restored radio connection with NASA, the former was more than willing to work with them, creating a new schedule and routine. One which allowed for the men to complete the required tasks on their own time and allowed them breaks for meals and more rest.
“The lessons here are not just for manned space flight, but for any workplace environment that approximates its conditions, whether in space or on Earth.” says Samir Chopra. In the opinion of Eric Loomis, however, this situation may not be as ‘game-changing’ as one might think. “It’s hard to make new demands of employers when those employers are just going to move the jobs to Mexico, as was happening throughout the 1970s.”
Regardless of any lasting ramifications, we’ve got to give kudos to these three astronauts who simply refused to ‘roll over’ for the Man!