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Stronger Together

I’ve never been known to back down from a fight. The truth is, I’m tired of trying to reach compromises with employers who don’t realize the fundamental worth of our members. I’m tired of watching what I say while our members are being assaulted, underpaid, and undervalued. The time for being polite is over. 

As we set the vision for our future at our 60th convention, the time to be unapologetically big and bold is now. For the workers of the world who are rising up in opposition. For the generations that come after us and the sacrifices of the ones that came before us. 


Oscar ‘Double O’ Owens 

One of the giants whose shoulders we stand on is Oscar ‘Double O’ Owens. Shortly after our last convention, we lost our beloved, legendary International Secretary-Treasurer. He was a strong voice for civil rights and, as the founding member of the ATU Black Caucus, an advocate for the rightful place of African Americans within the leadership of our Union and the entire labor movement. 

Oscar believed in fighting for a better life for our members and was unafraid to call out injustice. His rallying cry ‘Fired Up and Ready to Go!’ will echo in our union forever. 


The Pandemic 

In March of 2020, our world went into lockdown. Our members  – while lauded by transit agencies for their bravery – did unsafe work as millions worked from home. We kept our countries moving. We showed up when our communities needed us the most. We lost 220 brothers, sisters, and friends to the virus. Their memories live on through our fight. 

Despite the devastation, our Union banded together, fought like hell for protections and funding, resisted every layoff and concession, and organized more members than we have in a decade. 

Just recently, our Union had a big organizing win with 129 employees of Via/Hire Art voting to join our Local 1177 in Norfolk, VA. Via is a cutting-edge app-based microtransit company. This is our first Via and micro transit win.

The pandemic has taught us a lot. Through the toughest times, we become more resilient and sometimes, there’s even beauty in the struggle. 



The right to strike is fundamental. Right now, across North America, workers are fed up and organizing unions like we haven’t seen in decades. They’re taking risks, walking off the job, and demanding more. They’re not alone. 

Over the past three years, our ATU Locals have been fighting to shift the balance of power back to workers by securing strong contracts for our members. When push comes to shove, we’re not afraid to use our most powerful tool, our collective power, to strike.

Local 689-Washington, DC, has shown us time and time again the power of holding the line. Most recently, over 200 MetroAccess workers went out on strike for nine days, fighting for respect through open bargaining, which turns the tables through transparency and participation in negotiations. A room full of workers sitting across the table from Transdev in a show of unity was powerful to witness and helped secure a strong contract. 

Local 1181-New York, NY, has also showed us the way when in May of 2020, paratransit workers employed by private contractor MV Transportation walked off the job in Brooklyn and Staten Island. After two weeks and two days of federal mediation, more than 570 workers secured a fair contract.

Being organized and having the willingness to strike also makes an impact. Numerous strike authorizations over the past three years have shown that ATU members are ready to act if necessary. We can never forget the power of strikes to unite us, beat the boss, and honor those who gave their lives for our right to organize. 


Our Right to Vote 

As sacred as our right to strike is, so is our right to vote. Over the last three years, our Union has mobilized countless members, our friends, and neighbors to vote across North America. Because you came out to vote, we elected one of the most pro-union Presidents in America’s history. In Georgia, Locals 732-Atlanta and 1324-Savannah helped flip the United States Senate. In Alberta, Local 569-Edmonton and Local 583-Calgary mobilized to win critical elections showing the importance of organizing at the local level. 

In the states, we have crucial midterm elections coming up in November. The future of our democracy depends on all of us coming out to vote to make our voices heard. Some people on the ballot, from Governor to Congress, are dangerous to working people and want to take us back decades. We must do whatever we can to defeat them.  

As we’ve seen by an early endorsement of Joe Biden for President and other worker champions down the ballot, when we elect people with our values, anything is possible. 


Women’s Equity Initiative 

Labor unions have a long history of using their power to win advancements for women’s equality. Since 1919, when convention delegates voted to support women’s suffrage, the ATU has put these issues at the center of our work, most recently with our Women’s Equity Bargaining Guide and Training. The guide and the training are just some ways the ATU is working to ensure our women members are no longer mistreated, disrespected, and discriminated against in the workplace and our union halls. 


Autonomous Vehicles and Microtransit 

The ATU is also fighting to ensure that frontline workers are at the center of conversations regarding automation and microtransit and any efforts to contract out and phase out good union-paying jobs. A report from Carnegie Mellon University on Autonomous Vehicles for public transit confirms what we have been saying – there is no substitute for experienced transit workers, regardless of the technology. 

The ATU will continue to ensure our voices are heard and our experience is respected regarding the future of transit.  


The Honor of My Life 

It has been the most incredible honor of my life to serve the ATU over the past three years as your International President. We’ve been through so much together, and I feel privileged to be able to travel across North America to meet with you in person and witness the heroic work you all are doing. Whether it’s on the job, on a picket line, or at the negotiating table, you’re helping transform lives through the power of solidarity. 

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together. As we come together at our convention to decide what the next three years and beyond look like for the ATU, I challenge us all to continue being fearless in the face of adversity and to fight like hell to achieve justice. 

We would not be the great and mighty Union we are without you. We truly are and will always be stronger together.