Media Center

Stop calling us heroes

When the pandemic began in March 2020, most people were told to stay home from work to stop the spread of the deadly virus. But our members continued to bravely report to work to provide critical transportation for nurses, grocery store, and other essential workers on the frontlines of this crisis.

After a moving Facebook video from our Local 26-Detroit, MI, brother Jason Hargrove, who died from COVID-19, went viral, the media, transit agencies and politicians finally began to rightfully acknowledge us and all transit workers as heroes. 

Now, I’m sick of people calling us heroes when we have to fight tooth and nail against companies and transit agencies trying to take away all they can at the bargaining table after our members sacrificed so much throughout the pandemic, some with their lives. 

I’m sick of people calling us heroes when we’re still fighting to protect our members from both COVID-19 and daily assaults. 

I’m sick of people calling us heroes when we still have a school bus worker shortage because companies refuse to
pay a competitive wage. 

I’m sick of people calling us heroes and then doing nothing to address the mental health crisis in our workplaces. 


Pay and protect transit workers 

The ATU has not and will not back down when fighting for what our members need and deserve. At the national level in the U.S., the ATU has been aggressively advocating for funding and protection for transit and our members through President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. Because of ATU’s tireless advocacy, we won historic funding for transit with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and we are looking forward to an additional $10 billion through reconciliation. We hope to have similar success in Canada, where the ATU has been fighting nonstop for funding to keep transit going. 

Because of the infrastructure bill in the U.S., transit workers will also be better protected from assaults. The bill includes language from the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act, a long-time priority of the ATU. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear about a transit worker being punched, spit on, verbally abused, or worse by passengers, yet transit agencies do nothing. Attacks on transit workers have been ignored for too long. 


Standing in solidarity with TWU and all workers

Solidarity is the foundation of the labor movement. That’s why I was honored to join our allies, the Transport Workers Union (TWU), for their 26th Constitutional Convention in Las Vegas, NV, this year. The ATU and the TWU have been partners throughout the pandemic to ensure our members are protected on the job, including winning federal COVID relief funding to keep our members employed and transit systems running.  

As I spoke to their delegates, I was reminded of the hundreds of members from our two unions who lost their lives due to the pandemic and the fact that transit agencies still have the nerve to deny essential workers hazard pay for their sacrifices. They still have the nerve not to install driver safety shields even though drivers continue to be assaulted on the job. It’s shameful. As I ended my speech, I had a couple of choice words for transit agencies that refuse to protect their workers. F@€% YOU! 

We will continue to stand up to transit agencies in solidarity with the TWU and build deeper alliances with our fellow trade unions, including the thousands of workers who are on strike or threatening to strike across North America. 


Canadian Indigenous Communities  

The ATU not only stands with workers. We stand with all marginalized communities. That’s why the ATU continues to speak out about the atrocities that took place against children for over a century at residential schools in Canada. This year on Canada Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we joined Indigenous communities to call for a day of reflection instead of celebration after hundreds more children’s remains were found in unmarked graves at a residential school in Saskatchewan. I’m proud that the ATU has chosen to stand with Indigenous communities in their fight for justice. 


The ATU continues to lead the way through organizing 

With everything going on, it’s easy to lose focus or get overwhelmed by the amount of injustice there is in the world but know that your Union will always be here fighting for what’s right. I’m proud of the Locals that put in the hard work to expand the ATU’s impact, whether it’s welcoming new members, securing good contracts, or winning electoral campaigns. Organizing continues to be at the heart of what we do in the face of extreme challenges.

In Canada, we had significant victories in municipal elections in Alberta after ATU members put in extraordinary work to change the political landscape in the province by electing candidates who share our values. Our members had been organizing long before the endorsements were made, building solidarity and participation, which was critical to these victories, including the election of one of our own, Amarjeet Sohi, former Local 569 bus operator now Mayor-elect of Edmonton.  

In California, Local 1756-Arcadia, CA, launched a successful ‘Times Up Transdev’ campaign that took the Local from being trusteed to ratifying a contract that makes our members the highest-paid bus operators in their region. They did this by committing to organizing, giving workers a voice at the bargaining table, and continuous and strategic mobilizing to get members involved. 

These campaigns give us all hope and remind us of our strength when we come together to fight as one. Together we can elect representatives that not only understand us but are us. Together we can organize our workplaces to secure better contracts for workers and their families. And together, we can ensure that transit workers aren’t just called heroes by politicians and transit agencies but get treated like the heroes they truly are. It’s my honor to continue this fight alongside you.