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A big union meeting

In November 1979, I attended my first ATU union meeting. The smoke-filled room of bus drivers and mechanics in Local 726 were there for a tough discussion about their lives. That was how we saw it.

We worked all month, paid our dues and met to have serious discussions about our union, our contract, our employer and our future. It was a room full of characters – tough guys, funny guys, a weird guy or two – some who cared only about overtime, some about time off.

Some were sticklers for procedure, some just there for a good conversation with co-workers. People did not hold back. They told you how they really felt – often in a less than subtle way.  Some leaders impressed me who were really concerned about the members. We all however, had the common bond we just called “726”.  We were proud of it.

You direct your Local and the International

At each of more than 250 Local Unions we hold those meetings each month in which members have the right and the power to determine the policies that shape the actions of every Local.

At your meetings and through your leaders, presidents, executive officers and executive boards, you direct the action of your Local. Through the delegates you elect and send to the Convention, you direct the entire International Union.

Every three years…

Every three years we hold a Convention, this time in Toronto, ON, to decide the policies, our Laws and to elect the leaders who run ATU.

It’s a big week-long union meeting. There is less smoke than in days gone by, but a room full of transit workers from all parts of Canada and the United States always provides us with wisdom, and often entertainment. We bring our values, our concerns, our hopes and fears, and our various personalities.

So in early October we will convene in Canada and decide the plans for ATU for the next three years. It will be a continuation of our heritage.

It will be a meeting of about 700 delegates, each chosen democratically by their members to have their say in the future of our labor movement.  Through work in committees and on the floor of the Convention they will write the script for the future of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Work of Union is work of the members

What a great honor it is for me to preside at this week-long union meeting. As I bring down the gavel I will think back to a union hall in Staten Island where it began for me, remembering that the work of this Union is the work of the bus mechanics, drivers, train operators, station agents, clerical workers, and all the men and women who are the ATU.

We know we owe it to you to work hard, and we will strive to continue to make you proud of the entire ATU.