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ATU Holds First-ever Canadian Legislative Conference

For the first time ever, the ATU held a Canadian Legislative Conference, bringing together ATU Canada and Local leaders from across Canada and the U.S. to talk about the importance of engaging in political action and elections. Hosted by International President John Costa and ATU Canada President John Di Nino, also in attendance were, International Secretary-Treasurer Ken Kirk, and International Vice Presidents Manny Sforza, John Callahan, and Ken Wilson. 

Costa and Di Nino opened the meeting by thanking everyone for their leadership during these challenging times. They highlighted the importance of political action and the need for ATU to be recognized as the transit leader in Canada. Canadian transit workers are facing the challenges of sweeping legislation, including anti-worker rights, right-to-work initiatives, and the intentional underfunding of public transit.

Pointing to the political success of our Union in the U.S., Costa talked about the leading role the ATU played with our early endorsement of President Biden, securing COVID relief funding, and electing pro-worker, pro-transit candidates who fight for our values. 

“The political rules are not the same in Canada, and the federal government does not have a transit program, but the issues are the same,” Costa told attendees. “The blood of a transit worker that is attacked behind the wheel in Canada is the same color as a bus driver in the U.S. Transit workers need restroom breaks – whether they live in Winnipeg or Washington. Transit systems need funding – whether they are in Toronto or Toledo.” 

“The importance of ATU Canada investing in political action has never been more important than now,” said Di Nino. “As right-wing governments continue the attack on public transit, we need to elect progressive pro-transit and pro-labor leaders, who will provide operational dollars for the survival of public transit.”

The meeting featured lively and informative discussions about the important role politics play in fighting for the rights and interests of our members, our families, our communities, and public transit in our countries, provinces, and states. They also covered the importance of the critical elections coming up in Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba that our Union and members must be prepared to mobilize early. 

Attendees also heard from President of the Canadian Labour Council (CLC) Bea Bruske, NDP Member of Parliament, Matthew Green, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) Patty Coates, and Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) on how workers can get involved and make real change in government when we band together. In addition, AFL Director of Campaigns Jocelyn Johnson spoke to give advice on how the federation runs campaigns.

The afternoon concluded with a number of Presidents from U.S. Locals offering encouraging remarks and experiences on how we win in solidarity.