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Together We Can

As the first Latina woman International Executive Vice President, it was an honor to attend the 2023 ATU International Women’s Caucus in Austin, TX. Hosted by Local 1091-Austin, TX, President/Business Agent Brent Payne did a phenomenal job welcoming the delegation. It was an inspirational and productive few days with so many of my fellow ATU sisters, brothers, and friends from across the U.S. and Canada. We enjoyed hearing another moving speech by National President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and the Executive Director of the Labor Heritage Foundation, Elise Bryant, who also spoke at our last Convention. The delegates also had an informative and interactive discussion on Women’s Equity facilitated by Bianca Cunningham, BCG Campaign Director for the Action Center on Race and the Economy Institute.

With all our Union and countries have been through the last couple of years, it was great to have Janet Gerhard from ATU-partner FHE Health speak on mental health awareness and reinforce that it’s okay to ask for help. There was a frank and open discussion where many shared personal stories. Janet’s presentation always brings our ATU family closer and shows we are “Stronger Together!”

The weekend concluded with a celebration to honor retired International Vice President Janis Borchardt and all the contributions she made not only to the ATU but to the labor movement. I want to personally congratulate her on her well-deserved retirement and thank her for always being a mentor to the women of the ATU!

Equally inspiring, we were able to resume our in-person U.S. Legislative Conference in June, bringing Local leaders together from across the U.S to Washington, D.C. We had the privilege of hearing from elected officials who know public transit is an indispensable aspect of our transportation systems connecting communities, and the pivotal role our Union and members play in guaranteeing its smooth, efficient, and safe operation. The highlight was our more than 150 members heading to Capitol Hill to visit and speak with their Members of Congress on our key issues, including the epidemic of violence and attacks on our members, funding for public transit, and the transition to zero-emission vehicles.

As members of our proud Union, we are responsible for advocating for better working conditions for all public transportation employees to provide safe and reliable services for our passengers. Moreover, we must ensure that public transportation systems are adequately funded and maintained to prevent accidents and other challenges. To do this, we must support political candidates willing to sponsor Federal, state, or provincial legislation that provides dedicated funding and bills to ensure a safe workplace and protects our jobs from being automated.

Another important issue highlighted at the conference was the increasing number of agencies turning to Microtransit, a form of on-demand responsive transport vehicle for hire. It is often promoted as a way to save on costs, which is done by using private contractors and paying low wages. While there may be a place for Microtransit, we must ensure it is not at the expense of our members by reducing salaries and benefits or eliminating jobs.

One way our U.S. members can help protect their future is by donating to ATU-COPE, our Political Action Committee (PAC). You may say, “I already pay my Union dues,” but did you know Union dues cannot be used to support political candidates? All ATU-COPE contributions are used to support candidates that support transit, working families, and labor unions.

Thank you to all the members for the work you do each and every day. I know we are “Stronger Together” and “Together We Can” create a better ATU, better transit systems, and better communities for our members, our families, and our countries.