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Honoring Our Retired Leaders

It’s impossible to capture the entirety and the impact of an ATU International Vice President’s career in an article, the victories and challenges would fill an entire edition. Indulge me as I attempt to give you a glimpse of IVP’s Robin West and Paul Bowen.


International Vice President Robin West 

Our former ATU Local 508 President has a unique background that he graciously shared.

Robin is the youngest of six and was orphaned at the tender age of 12. Raised by his older brother until he was 14, Robin moved out to give his brother room for his family. Robin left high school and worked two full-time jobs as a cleaner and dishwasher to make ends meet. At the age of 18, Robin married the love of his life, Valerie.  This August, they will celebrate their 47th anniversary.  

Robin started working in the transit business when he was 21. In 1985 he was elected Vice President of Local 508-Halifax. In 1988 he was elected Financial Secretary-Treasurer, and in 1994, President/BA.  In 2006, he was elected Canadian Director, and in 2010 elected International Vice President.  He lobbied hard that year with his U.S. brothers and sisters to ensure that the ATU Constitution was modified to require a minimum of three International Vice Presidents positions would be Canadian. Robin has served the ATU for 37 years in total.

On June 1, 1995, “The Nova Scotia Daily News” quoted Mayor Walter Fitzgerald’s Union bashing comments, “transit workers want to make cripple people crawl.” The paper hailed Robin “The Working Class Leader”. Robin was willing to have the access drivers return to work until a contract was reached but demanded parity in pay with the regular bus drivers. He was lauded for his style and demeanor and ability to garner public support even though it belied his fiery red hair and beard.

In 1995, the Prime Minister of Nova Scotia forced the merger of the City of Halifax, Dartmouth Town, Bedford, and the County of Halifax into one city. Disputes arose over pension freezes and changes to the medical plan. The fight ended with the fiery redhead, and our Union’s benefits not only intact but enhanced.

Still, later Robin fought a ten-year battle to change the Criminal Code dealing with assaults on transit workers to be treated as an aggravated assault, which carried more severe consequences. While serving as Canadian Director, the bill was signed into law.


International Vice President Paul Bowen

Paul, the consummate gentleman, unless provoked, as Local 26 Detroit President/BA, fought to ensure that his members were treated with dignity and respect. He organized members, garnered public support, beat the pavement, knocked on doors, and attended City Council meetings demanding that his members be recognized and respected. In 2004 when he became an IVP, he brought the tenacity known to Local 26 members to every assignment he touched.

I recall a discharge arbitration he represented for Local 1474-Richmond, Indiana. It was televised on local stations, and though he was told he couldn’t win, Paul was masterfully successful on behalf of the Local. 

Claiming poverty one year, the city of Terre Haute, Indiana, convinced all but one city union to take concessions. Paul and Local 1064 demanded arbitration and achieved status quo on health care and 5% wage increases each year of a three-year contract.

It’s been my honor to work with each of these Servant Leaders, and it will always be my privilege to call them friends.

Thank you, Robin and Paul.