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ATU Recognizes our Fierce ATU Women to Celebrate Women’s History Month

Tonisha Reynolds, Local 1577-West Palm Beach, FL

Local 1577-West Palm Beach, FL, Sister Tonisha Reynolds has been a trailblazer in public transit, having been a member of two of our ATU Locals. In 2005, she began her career in public transportation as an Avis Car Rental Bus Operator in Chicago, IL. Then, in 2012, Reynolds moved to Minneapolis, MN, where she joined our Local 1005-Minneapolis, MN, as a Bus Operator for Metro Transit. After two years, Reynolds decided that she wanted to work in maintenance, a career where not many women worked.

She started out as a Cleaner and then, in 2017, enrolled in the Local’s mechanic apprenticeship program and became a Mechanic. In 2020, Metro Transit honored her as a Woman in Transit. Reynolds’ next move was to Florida in June 2023, joining our Local 1577 as a Mechanic Trainee at Palm Tran. She was quickly promoted to Mechanic and the first African American female Mechanic in the agency’s history. Reynolds has strived to be a role model for her fellow female members, her son, and her 3 grandchildren. “The majority of transit mechanics are overwhelmingly men. I want to set an example to all women that they can also pursue a successful career in transit maintenance.”


Raenelle Cole - Shop Steward 1764-Washington, DC

A former Mail Carrier and member of APWU, Sister Raenelle Cole decided to take a job as a MTA Mobility Operator in Baltimore, MD, joining our Local 1764-Washington, DC, because her mail job was taking a toll on her physically. A natural born leader, Sister Cole decided to become a Shop Steward to get more involved in her Local and fight for the rights of her fellow members on the job.

“At this type of job, we need to be protected and the pay rate was low, so I wanted to make sure the concerns of my ATU brothers and sisters are being heard and they have a strong voice in the workplace.” Sister Cole has been a key player in the Local’s campaigns to mobilize her fellow members to attend Local union meetings, participate in contract campaign surveys, and other important Local actions.


Shirley Block, Local 757-Portland, OR

Sister Shirley Block joined TriMet as a nurse in 1978 after moving from Detroit, MI. When those nurse positions were eliminated at TriMet in 1981, Sister Block applied to become a Bus Operator as a member of our Local 757-Portland, OR. She immediately broke barriers in her career at TriMet as the first Black female fare inspector, road supervisor, and Field Operations Coordinator.

Wanting to get more involved in her Local, Sister Block served several terms as a member of the Local’s Executive Board. Then frustrated by the Local’s 2014 contract settlement with TriMet, Sister Block decided to run for President/Business Agent and was elected as the first Black woman to the Local’s top position. Throughout her career, Sister Block has fought for the rights of our members. Her daughter works at TriMet, as did her husband, who is now retired. Sister Block announced her retirement, and we will miss her leadership. We salute Sister Block as a trailblazing woman over her long and storied career at her Local and our Union.


Jeannie Garbett, Local 508-Halifax, NS

Local 508-Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sister Jeannie Garbett has proven a woman’s place is in her union. She was one of the first women hired at Halifax Transit in the late 1980’s. She would often say her life changed forever when she got herself a union job. In the late 1990’s, Garbett decided to run for Local Shop Steward out of the maintenance department, but she lost. Instead of walking away, she jumped in with both feet, helping her Local in any way possible. In 2000, she was elected Shop Steward out of the Maintenance/ Receiver’s Office division, breaking one of many glass ceilings over her long and dedicated ATU career.

In 2005, she was appointed the Local’s Financial Secretary-Treasurer, becoming the first female to hold a table officer position at Local 508. In 2009, she ran unchallenged and was elected Financial Secretary at the then Canadian Council, now ATU Canada. She was the first female in the ATU to achieve a National Executive Board position. She was the first Canadian awarded the Oscar Owens Financial Secretary Award at the 2013 ATU International Convention. Sister Garbett announced she is retiring after more than 35 years at Halifax Transit.


Karima Howard, Local 85-Pittsburgh, PA

Sister Karima Howard has been a member of our Local 85-Pittsburgh, PA, for 23 years. Born in Aliquippa, PA, she is a union steel mill baby and her career exemplifies her love for organized labor. She has held the position of Bus Operator, Service Development Associate and most recently became an instructor for CDL training. Sister Howard serves as the Local’s Recording Secretary and is the Vice President of the ATU International Black Caucus. In addition, she is currently serving as the Recording Secretary of the Allegheny County Labor Council and has been Local 85’s United Way coordinator for multiple campaigns.

From fighting to pass the American Jobs Act, to supporting the Black Lives Matter/Black Workers Matter movement, to working on the ground to get labor friendly politicians elected, and always fighting for women’s equality in the workplace, Sister Howard isn’t shy about her pride for the ATU. Sister Howard’s dedication and commitment to the labor movement has spearheaded a more unified and diverse Local 85 and more women getting involved in the Local. Sister Howard exudes leadership, and our Union and the labor movement is fortunate to have a woman like her on our side!