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The Future of the ATU

Two years have passed since our world changed and our countries went into lockdown. As we start to hopefully enter a post-pandemic world, I want to recognize our frontline hero members. Thank you for bravely meeting the moment. You were a symbol of courage in the face of danger, a beacon of hope despite extreme challenges. You showed us all that the work you do has always been essential. When others had the option of working from home, you were on the front lines, providing critical transportation to millions of people. 

Now we’re seeing ridership come back as a sign that people are relying on public transit again. Now, more than ever, we must ensure that the sacrifices and heroism of our members and the vital importance of public transit won’t be forgotten. 


Employers on Notice 

We’re putting every employer on notice who is unwilling to respect our members. Across the U.S. and Canada, workers are demanding their rights. Our responsibility as a Union is to ensure that our members make a living wage, have healthcare and retirement benefits, have a voice on the job, and that they’re safe on the job. The pandemic only intensified these demands, and we won’t give up our fight. 

At the ATU, the work to advocate for our members, our riders, and transit hasn’t stopped. As we look back at these past two difficult years, we’ve welcomed new members into our ATU family, fought for critical protections, saved our members’ jobs, bargained for strong contracts, and secured investment in public transit. I have so much respect for our members and Locals for embracing the struggle in difficult times in order to make things better for other people. That’s just what we do. 


Fighting for What’s Right 

Every day, our International assists Locals to organize alongside our members. From open bargaining to ATU’s organizing model and through petitions and surveys of our members, we’re putting in the real work to strengthen our Union. As you will see, our strategies are working. Whether it’s wage increases or bathroom access, we’re coming together to voice our concerns, build power, and fight for democracy on the job. 

We are also still fighting for the fundamental right to be safe on the job. There have been multiple stabbings, shootings, and other assaults that our members have had to endure. This May marked the one-year anniversary of our Local 265-San Jose, CA, brothers who tragically lost their lives in a mass shooting. Since then, there have been positive changes to the culture of the VTA, including providing retirement benefits to the families of the fallen. 

Our members’ mental and physical health is the highest priority for the ATU. We’ve passed legislation to better protect you, and we will continue to call attention to stress on the job. Also, if you, a fellow member, or a family member is struggling with mental health or dependence issues, please reach out for confidential assistance with our ATU-partner FHE Health by calling 866-276-1610 or visit 


On the Road  

To hear directly from you about the most important issues regarding your work and your communities, I recently traveled to Phoenix, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Springfield (IL), Des Moines, Washington, DC, and Fresno to visit with our Local leaders and members. 

While we were in New Orleans, a deadly tornado affected our members, one-third of who live in the 9th ward where the tornado touched down. We saw the devastation, offered support to the Local, and reached out to our members to help through our Disaster Relief Fund. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed so far. 

The ATU also took on an important humanitarian cause abroad by supporting our sisters and brothers in need in Ukraine after a brutal and unprovoked attack by Russia. We announced a donation of $25,000 to the International Trade Union Confederation Relief Fund to provide immediate support to Ukrainian refugees. We are very proud to be able to contribute to the Ukrainian people in this way. 


Hold the Line 

In Washington, DC, International Secretary-Treasurer Ken Kirk and I visited a picket line for a strike of our Local 689 members working for the DC Circulator contractor RATP Dev. I was inspired by the unity and resolve of our brothers and sisters to win the contract they deserve. They stood together, resulting in the ratification of a strong agreement. It was an honor holding the line with you. 

While in Toledo, we rallied alongside Local 697-Toledo, OH, on an informational rally in their fight for a fair and just contract, including preserving their health care. Since then, the Local has secured a strong contract for our members. 

Being with you, our members, is what drives me, and we will continue to be of service and witness to the amazing work you all are doing each and every day. 


Retirements and Appointments

At the ATU, we’ve had to say goodbyes to our long-time brothers, retiring International Vice Presidents Robin West and Paul Bowen, each with over forty years of service to the ATU. They both leave a legacy of dedication to our members and the labor movement, and we wish them the best in their retirement.  

With these recent retirements, the ATU has also ushered in a new generation of leaders, with former President of Local 508-Halifax, NS, President Ken Wilson, and former President of Local 1177-Norfolk, VA, and former International Representative Amanda Sawyer-Malone, joining the ranks as International Vice Presidents. 

Both started their careers in the same year, 1999, as bus operators, eventually making ATU history when Ken was elected the youngest President of his Local and Amanda was elected the first woman President of hers. We’re excited to bring the perspectives of these two incredible leaders to better serve our members and the labor movement. Both Ken’s and Amanda’s passion for our members is beyond inspiring, and I know we’ll be a better Union because we have their voices at the table. 

As we get ready for our 60th International Convention in September, I know the future of the ATU is bright. Because of the work done by those who came before us and whose shoulders we stand on, and the new generation of leaders, the ATU is stronger and more resilient than ever. 

Thank you for being so committed to this Union. It has sustained us during these difficult times. We look forward to our victory over this pandemic, which will allow us to be on the ground, together again, where we belong.