Skip to main content

ATU Celebrates Black History Month

Black unionists continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the course of history, challenging systemic racism in the workplace, and being instrumental in creating pathways for economic empowerment within Black communities. This Black History Month, celebrated in February, our Union recognized our own ATU members who have gone above and beyond, making Black history in our Locals, our Union, and the labor movement. Our honorees this year include:


International Secretary-Treasurer Ken Kirk

International Secretary-Treasurer Ken Kirk was appointed by International President John Costa with approval by the ATU General Executive Board on December 13, 2019, to serve out the term of the late International Secretary-Treasurer Oscar Owens. Kirk was elected at the ATU 60th International Convention in Las Vegas, NV, in September 2022. Kirk came to work in public transit in 1985 while looking for a job to support himself in college, taking a job at the Dallas Transit System. He joined Local 1338-Dallas, TX. After a year on the job, he got sick and had to take three days off. When he returned, his pay had been docked. When he challenged management, they told him he hadn’t adhered to company policy. It sparked Kirk to get involved with his Local. In 1990, Kirk was appointed a Shop Steward. A year later, he was elected Vice President of the Local and was elected President/Business Agent in 1994. By the time of his appointment as an International Representative in 2004, Kirk had increased Local membership to 1,500 members. In July 2004, Kirk was appointed as an International Vice President to fill out the term of retired International Vice President Charles Pettus. Kirk was elected International Vice President at the 54th International Convention in Las Vegas, NV, in 2004 and was re-elected IVP at the last five Conventions before becoming IST. Thank you, Brother Kirk, for your leadership and years of service to our Union.


Kelvin Skerritt, Local 1181-New York, NY

Local 1181-New York, NY Brother Kelvin Skerritt, a School Bus Operator for Atlantic Express and then Hoyt Transportation for the past 30 years, is a member his Local can always count on no matter the ask. He became a Shop Steward seven years ago to guide and educate his fellow members to know their rights and fight for them in the workplace. Wanting to get more involved, Brother Skerritt served on the Local’s Negotiations Committee, which helped secure a strong contract. He is also the unofficial photographer for the Local, covering the Labor Day parade, rallies, and other events.  His wife Valquise is also a member of Local 1181 as a School Bus Attendant, and they have had the unique opportunity to work on the same school bus for the majority of their careers.


Orlando Riley, Chair, ATU New Jersey State Joint Council

Brother Orlando Riley joined our Local 819-Newark, NJ, in 1995 as a Service Person at the NJ Transit Hilton Garage and became a Repairman in 2001. Recognizing he could advocate for his fellow members, Riley served as a Maintenance Shop Steward from 2002 until 2010. He wanted to take on a bigger role and was elected as a Representative to the NJ State Joint Council in 2005. Riley decided to run for office at his Local and was elected Recording Secretary in 2011 until 2015, when he was appointed Acting Vice President. He was then elected VP of his Local in 2016, serving until 2018. After serving as Vice Chair of the NJ State Joint Council, Riley was elected as the First Black Chair of the Council in 2020. During the COVID pandemic, he fought for the health and safety of our NJ members, securing free testing, PPE, and other protections. Riley continues to be a strong advocate for our NJ members and Locals to improve safety, health, and working conditions.


Tunika (Grace) Udoh, Local 113-Toronto, ON

Tunika (Grace) Udoh is a dedicated member of our Local 113-Toronto, ON, with twenty years of experience as a Transit Operator in Bus Transportation at the TTC. Her commitment to the labour movement extends well beyond bus operations.  Elected as a Shop Steward in December 2021, Grace advocates for our members’ rights and ensures their welfare in the workplace. She loves the challenges of this role, having to wear many hats to truly help members navigate their day-to-day life challenges at work and/or home. She believes Union leaders must work to assist, relate, and empathize with members who represent multiple ethnicities and diversities.  Grace plays a key role as a member of Local 113 Political Action Committee, helping drive the Local’s campaigns to keep transit public and safeguard the interests of our members. A volunteer for the Local 113 Men’s Basketball Team, she was recently elected to the executive board of the ATU International Basketball Classic Committee.  Grace also volunteers for various ATU projects and community engagement initiatives.  Beyond her union work, Grace uses her experience and understanding of the challenges faced by workers to impact the labour landscape in Toronto, serving on the Women’s Committee for the Toronto/York Region Labour Council.