Larry Hanley was elected international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, September 30, 2010, at ATU’s 56th International Convention in Orlando, FL.
International President Hanley began driving a bus in 1978, at age 21, in Brooklyn, NY, and attended his first union meeting that September. He was an activist in the Transport Workers Union (TWU) during the 18 months he was a member, organizing efforts to get police protection on buses in New York City.
In November 1979, he transferred to Staten Island and became a member of the ATU Local 726. By April 1980, he was involved in his first strike and walked picket lines every day and night. The strike was ruled illegal and lasted 11 days.
In 1984, Hanley was elected secretary treasurer of the local. Shortly after his election, a strike broke out in Austin, MN, at the George Hormel Company. This strike caught the attention of the media due to the anti-union climate in the Reagan administration and the brilliant tactics of the strikers.
He joined the New York support group who traveled to Austin. Concerning that time he said, “It was a chilling experience to see the National Guard brought out by the governor to take the side of the owners. I joined many thousands of union members from across America and I walked the line. It was a formative experience."
He served as secretary treasurer until January 1987, when he was elected president, the youngest in his local’s history. Hanley would go on to be re-elected to five terms, serving until 2002.
Hanley recalls, “I hit the ground running... No sooner had I become president than our local union faced the threat of complete privatization of our express bus work. This crisis led us to devise a creative form of protest: carrying coffins into hearings, hiring stagecoaches to demonstrate the poor funding of mass transit, and taking the fight directly to our opponents.”
In 1989, Hanley took charge of the Staten Island operation of David Dinkins’ successful campaign for mayor of New York. The local president was one of the founders of New York’s Working Families Party in 1998.
Challenging the MTA
“We challenged the MTA in New York through internal member organization. We also made great strides in organizing the riders of our buses. We worked every day in the community to convince both our members and the passengers that our interests were one and the same.”
The result was a 125% increase in ridership and 500 more jobs in his local. The local’s investment of $160,000 on the campaign has now generated $450 million in ATU salaries and $1 billion in capital spending on transit.
Hanley relates, “Around the same time, I organized a multi-union effort that successfully elected 515 labor union members and officers to the Staten Island Democratic Party - effectively putting Labor in charge.
“We were named by New York Magazine as one of the most “politically important unions” in New York City, an honor we shared with other local unions that have tens of thousands more members.
Joins International Staff
In 2002, Hanley was asked by International President Jim LaSala to join the staff of the International as an international vice president. “Though it was difficult for me to leave my local,” he says, “I took the job. I immediately went to work bargaining contracts, often seven days a week throughout the East Coast.”
Hanley was the international vice president assigned to the most locals. He negotiated the national Greyhound contract for Local 1700 that resulted in his working with ATU members in many states. He served in that capacity until his election as international president in September 2010.