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ATU Canada Locals Lobby for Change at 2024 Legislative Conference

ATU Canada’s 2024 Legislative Conference kicked off in Ottawa, ON, on March 18, 2024, marking Transit Worker Appreciation Day, with more than 60 Local leaders from across Canada gathered to strategize and learn about the importance of engaging in political action, lobbying, and elections.


Fighting Back

International President John Costa kicked off the conference, firing up the room with a now-famous ATU chant: “If we don’t get it, what are we gonna do? Shut it down!” Costa shouted, calling to Local 616-Windsor, ON, President/Business Agent Dragan Markovic, who recently won a strong contract after a strike threat.

“For me, this is the first ATU Canada Legislative Conference that I have attended in person. I’m proud of Canada and what our Locals and members are doing, fighting back,” Costa continued. “We’ve had a recent successful strike at Local 107 Hamilton and other Locals threatening strikes.

The next couple of days are going to be busy. You are going to lobby your Members of Parliament and push for dedicated transit funding and better protections for our members, who have seen attacks and violence rising across Canada. Thank you for all you do, and please know the International is proud to fight alongside you.”

Costa led a discussion on the fights our Canadian Locals have faced, organizing successes, and the importance of putting together a strong team at your Local. International Executive Vice President Yvette Trujillo also thanked attendees for the work they do to keep our members safe. “A lot has happened across the country in Canada, and it’s all been good work and a good fight. It’s so important to get the word out to our members. We can have all the money, we can pay the politicians, but we must have our members understand the work we do, how important it is, and how it affects them.”

ATU Canada President John Di Nino reminded the crowd, “Lobbying doesn’t just happen once a year. Lobbying and activism need to happen every day. We don’t necessarily need to come to Ottawa to get our message across. We can do it in our own homes, our own Ridings, our own constituent offices. Those things we fight for are about the survival of our industry.”

International Vice Presidents Manny Sforza, John Callahan, and Ken Wilson were also in attendance for the impactful first day. 


Working Class Power

Participants then heard from a longtime friend of the ATU, Member of Parliament Mathew Green. “The power in the Union is in your ability to build coalitions and to build community power beyond your membership,” said Green.

“And if you don’t know what that looks like, look to Hamilton, where you can have transit workers along with environmental activists, with disability advocates, seniors, tenants’ associations. We are creating a coalition of working class power and there is nobody who knows how to do that better than the labor movement.”

Then NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, another close friend of the ATU, painted the picture of our collective future by saying, “I want a federal government that works for you. I want a government that makes sure you can work to build a good life. I want a government that gives workers the respect they deserve. I want you to be able to build a life that has less worry and more joy. Less fear, more hope. Less greed and more compassion. I promise you, together, that is a Canada we can and will build together.”

ATU staff also made presentations on how to run effective election campaigns, an update on key legislative issues, Organizing, Political Action Committees, Battery Electric Buses, and other issues impacting our members.


Lobby Day

Day two was another packed day as our members went to Parliament Hill to meet with their Members of Parliament and Senators to talk about the critical issues impacting our members, their families, our Union, and our industry.

From MP Rachel Blaney to Senator Mary Coyle to MP Brian Masse to Senator Hassan Yussuff to MP John Brassard, our more than 60 Local leaders visited more than 30 Members of Parliament and Senators. Costa, Trujillo, and Di Nino met with NDP Leader Singh, MP Green and Minister of Labour and Seniors Seamus O’Regan.

Among the key issues we lobbied for were increased dedicated funding for transit operations, strengthening penalties for assaults on transit workers by amending the Criminal Code by expanding the definition of a transit worker operator to include all transit workers and other issues.


That’s a Wrap

“It’s been an amazing conference. It was an honor to go up to Parliament Hill. You visited more than 30 Members of Parliament to advocate for our members. For some of you, this was your first time lobbying,” said Costa, who was the first ATU International President to visit Parliament. “It’s been an inspirational few days. I hope you go back to your Locals with a better understanding of the importance of politics and getting our members involved.”

Then, the entire conference boarded an OC Transpo O-train to take a group photo at the Centennial Flame, a monument on Parliament Hill commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.

We thank ATU Canada and all our members who attended the 2024 ATU Canada Legislative Conference and are “putting in the work for our members and our Union,” as Costa says.