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Our Voice, Our Power

ATU 2023 Legislative Conference Convenes in Washington, DC

In June, the ATU held our first in-person Legislative Conference since 2018 in Washington, D.C. It was a packed and exciting few days with over 150 attendees hearing from politicians and other speakers, heading to Capitol Hill to meet with their members of the House and Senate, learning about the importance of ATU-COPE, and taking part in other important sessions.


Day 1 – We Need You

Day one began with International President John Costa welcoming Local Presidents/Business Agents from across the U.S. and members of the General Executive Board and talking about the importance of political action and elections. “When I first started coming to this conference more than 20 years ago, we had just about 40 locals here. It was only the ones that gave to COPE. We met on the weekend and never left the room,” said Costa. “I wanted to do it differently. That’s why we’ve opened it up to all U.S. Locals. To me, bringing in the Locals that don’t participate in COPE makes sense because we need you. We need all of our Locals to get politically active. It’s going to be a busy few days, but you are going to learn a lot.”

Delegates then heard from President Joe Biden in a video message thanking Costa for his leadership and our Union and members for their commitment and dedication to keeping our communities moving throughout the pandemic and beyond.

The highlight of the day was Costa presenting the ATU Legislator of the Year Award to Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) for his work and commitment to our members by introducing the Transit Worker Protection Act and getting the legislation’s important safety provisions for our members included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

Other speakers addressing the conference were Maryland Governor Wes Moore, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Gov. and son of a member of Local 85-Pittsburgh, PA, Austin Davis, and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton from Washington, DC.

Attendees also heard informative presentations on federal legislation, the ATU legislative agenda, elections, and state legislation impacting our members, our Union, and our industry. The delegates engaged in lively and informative discussions about the important role politics play in fighting for the rights and interests of our members, our families, our communities, and public transit in the U.S., our states, and our cities.

The day ended with Costa, International Executive Vice President Yvette Trujillo, and International Secretary-Treasurer Ken Kirk going to the White House to meet with President Biden in the Oval Office and Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss critical issues impacting our members and our Union.


Day 2 - Lobby Day

Day two was another jam packed day at the ATU Legislative Conference as our members went to Capitol Hill to meet with their Members of Congress to talk about the critical issues impacting our members, their families, our Union, and our industry.

Before hitting the halls of Congress Costa led our more than 150 members on the steps of the Capitol Building with rallying calls of “ATU, Stronger Together” and “Our Voice, Our Power!”

From Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) to Rep. Zachary Nunn (R-IA) to Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), our more than 150 attendees visited more than 200 Members of Congress. Among the key issues we lobbied for were the implementation of the safety provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, increased transit funding, the dangers of autonomous vehicles, and pushing for the passage of the PRO Act to modernize labor laws and allow more workers to join a union.

Prior to going to Capitol Hill, another impressive slate of speakers delivered inspiring remarks, including Rep. Rob Menendez (D-NJ), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

It was an inspiring and productive day for our Union. Thank you to all our members for representing our Union on Capitol Hill.


Day 3 – That’s a Wrap

The last day of the conference began with a presentation on ATU-COPE that featured a lively Roundtable of Local Presidents/Business Agents talking about the success of their COPE programs and strategies and tactics to recruit members to join.

After, International President Costa presented the COPE awards. The Chairman’s Awards to the Locals with the highest dollars contributed went to Local 519-La Crosse, WI, Local 1575-San Rafael, CA, Local 282-Rochester, NY, Local 618-Providence, RI, and Local 726-Staten Island, NY.

The President’s Awards for the highest percentage of active members enrolled in COPE went to Local 1209-New London, CT, Local 558-Shreveport, LA, Local 1235-Nashville, TN, Local 694-San Antonio, TX, and Local 726-Staten Island, NY.

The Patriot Award for the member contributing the highest amount went to Local 587-Seattle, WA, Member John Eaton. Congratulations to all the winners!

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler then delivered inspiring remarks, thanking our members for their commitment, dedication, and solidarity, pointing to our successful strike by our Local 689-Washington, DC, members working at Loudoun County Transit, and other actions. Shuler was followed by an informative session on the impact of Microtransit on our Union and our industry.

We thank all our members who attended the 2023 ATU Legislative Conference and are “putting in the work for our members and our Union,” as Costa says.