With the landslide election of Ronald Reagan, the labor movement’s fortunes changed. Starting with his busting of the "PATCO" air traffic controllers union in 1981, Reagan waged a wholesale assault on labor unions.
The Reagan-era bureaucrats also further implemented trucking deregulation started in the late 1970s, causing steady decline in the Teamsters’ membership rolls for the first time since the depression. With each year, big business lobbyists eroded labor law and took the teeth out of its enforcement. The Teamsters joined the rest of the labor movement on a slide that led many to start writing unions’ premature obituaries.
In response to the legislative assault on unions, the Teamsters renewed the focus on DRIVE, and America’s largest and most powerful political action committee set to work defeating those in the pockets of big business and electing friends of working families.
However, throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, all of labor continued to be hit hard with anti-labor legislation, economic turmoil and a decline in morale. Teamsters were not immune to this lack of unity; direction and strong leadership brought trouble to the once unstoppable union.