In the early 1980s, employers struck back. Following the lead of President Ronald Reagan, who fired striking air-traffic controllers, major companies began to routinely discharge workers who walked off the job. By the mid-'80s, strikes were in irreversible decline and companies were almost automatically firing workers who sought to form a union. A new doctrine, first propounded by economist Milton Friedman, took hold in boardrooms and executive suites. The purpose of a corporation, it held, was not to benefit all of its stakeholders — shareholders, employees and the public — but to benefit shareholders only. Boosting profits and the value of the company's stock by laying off workers, holding down their pay, converting them to independent contractors or shifting their jobs overseas became so common a practice that any company not playing by these rules became the subject of journalistic profiles written in a tone of amazement (as the recent coverage of the Market Basket supermarket chain attests).