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Victories and tragedies

As we begin a new year, I want to recognize all the hard work that went into making the ATU a more successful and resilient Union in 2021. It was a year of intense growth from our many legislative and contract victories to our most devastating losses due to the pandemic and workplace violence that brought us together more than ever before as a Union family. 


2021 Victories 

We started 2021 with significant victories in Georgia by electing Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. People said we couldn’t win these runoff elections, but our Locals had a plan: member-to-member engagement across the state along with the ATU bus. It excited not only our membership but the community to get out the vote for these important elections. Thanks to our efforts, we made history and flipped the Senate to a pro-worker majority.

On January 20th President Biden was inaugurated. His administration immediately issued an Executive Order requiring masks on public transportation, intercity buses, and trains, better protecting our members and riders from the deadly virus. 

In March, to help aid in the pandemic recovery, we helped secure passage of the American Rescue Plan, bringing in much-needed $30 billion in funding for transit to avoid layoffs and keep services running. 

Our advocacy didn’t stop there. Soon after, President Biden introduced his Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which, in the end, included $106.9 billion for transit, with billions to be invested in vehicle electrification, critical safety protections, and workforce development programs for our members.

In Canada, our members in Alberta mobilized to elect pro-transit, pro-worker candidates in municipal elections. In Edmonton, former Local 569 bus operator Amarjeet Sohi was elected Mayor. This played a critical role in saving our members’ jobs from being outsourced.


Our Locals Holding the Line 

With the pandemic continuing, our Union has been challenged like never before. Rather than lose hope, we chose to act. Together we helped stave off potential layoffs, fought for hazard pay and mask enforcement, and helped ensure that transit workers were safe on the job.

From the U.S. to Canada, whether you marched in the streets, called an elected official, contributed to COPE, or organized your workplace, every single action mattered – and together, they added up to important victories. 

We also grieved together. On the morning of May 26th, our Union was forever changed after the tragic mass shooting of our Local 265-San Jose, CA, brothers where I was on the ground in San Jose the day after with our members to offer support.

Unfortunately, San Jose was not an isolated incident. Recently in Kalamazoo, I was also on the ground after a shooting on a bus driven by a Local 1093 member. Then days later, in St. Louis, our Local 788 brother Jonathan Cobb was shot and critically injured while driving his bus in an act of senseless gun violence.

The pandemic has put a strain on all of us, and the need to process the losses surrounding both the virus and the tragedy in San Jose, the daily assaults on our brothers and sisters, and the strains of everyday life, can be overwhelming. I want you to know that you’re not alone. You have your ATU family, and we are here walking alongside you. We will not stop talking about the mental health crisis. We will not stop fighting for better protections for our members. 


From California to Florida and beyond

Throughout this year, I was able to see all the hard work our Locals put in as I traveled coast to coast, most recently from Northern California to Florida, to thank the members for keeping their communities moving throughout the pandemic. In California, I visited Local 256-Sacramento, Local 1605-Concord, Local 1574-San Mateo, Local 1575-San Rafael, Local 1555-Oakland, Local 192-Oakland, and Local 1225-San Francisco. While there, I met with members at transit centers, garages, and maintenance facilities to talk with dispatchers, supply clerks, and other members about their concerns along with touring zero-emission buses and state-of-the-art training centers. 

To end my tour of Northern California, I met with members of Local 265-San Jose, CA, in emotional visits since the tragic mass shooting at the Guadalupe yard.

In Tampa, Florida, I was able to visit with Locals 1593-Tampa, FL, and 1701-Sarasota, FL, along with International Secretary-Treasurer Ken Kirk at the HART streetcar garage, bus maintenance facilities, and transit centers to discuss the recent passage of the Infrastructure Bill and how the funding is critical for worker training and measures to better protect transit workers on the job. 

Our last stop was Local 1464-Tampa, FL, representing City of Tampa municipal workers in Solid Waste, Fleet Maintenance, Wastewater Collections, and Water Distribution. We saw firsthand the critical work our members perform each day for the people of Tampa. 

I’ve always said you can’t run a union from an office, and that’s why these visits to Locals will continue in the new year and beyond. Being out there with the members gives me renewed hope that we truly are stronger together. 


The year ahead 

In 2022 there’s a lot that will shape the year ahead. With historic levels of funding in the U.S. for public transit being distributed to modernize, revitalize and protect our transit systems and workers, there’s reason to be optimistic. We still have battles ahead, including ensuring this funding means safer vehicles, improved working conditions, more service, better jobs, and training for our members on new and existing technology. 

In addition, in 2022, we will hold our Union’s 60th International convention in Las Vegas, NV. At our convention, we set the vision of our Union moving forward for the next three years. We look forward to charting a path that will lead us to even more victories in the years ahead. 

Thank you again for making every victory possible, every heartache bearable, and most of all, for being part of our incredible ATU family. We couldn’t have done it without you. We look forward to putting the pandemic behind us and continuing the fight for the rights and safety of our members in 2022.

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