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A resounding call to arms

Our union is confronting a very difficult and sad time in its history. 

ATU International President Larry Hanley – a once-in-a-lifetime, transformational, trailblazing leader who brought our union to new heights – tragically and unexpectedly passed away in May.

Two weeks later, our Local 1593-Tampa, FL, brother Thomas Dunn was stabbed to death on the job, the latest brutal attack in an epidemic of assaults on transit workers.

Days later, a 10-year-old boy riding a bicycle was tragically killed in another preventable crash when a NJ Transit
bus with a massive built-in blind spot was turning left in a crosswalk.

No words can express our sense of grief and sadness over these tragic deaths.

But as I assume the office of ATU International President and bear witness to the international solidarity practiced by members in these trying times, I am more confident than ever that our members and our union are determined to honor Larry’s legacy and fight like hell to make our streets safer for everyone who shares them. 

We must put the industry and our employers on notice. No longer should we settle for wages that don’t feed
our families, for benefits we can’t afford to use, for working conditions that leave us wondering if we’ll return home at night.

We must let it be known to the political establishment
in the U.S. and Canada – especially U.S. President Donald Trump, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and the corporate titans who back them – that we will not accept the privatization of our public resources or elimination of labor rights. No longer should we let a global race-to-the-bottom drag our members and our riders into
poverty and immobility.

We must take Larry’s passion and programs and transform them into a way of life for our Local Unions and tangible victories for our members and allies. No longer should
we settle for aspiration without concrete action.

We must build deeper, more sustainable alliances with our fellow trade unions, our riders, and community organizations to advance and win more, better, safer, and more affordable public transit. No longer should we settle for coalitions that exist only on paper. 

We must confront the advent of autonomous vehicles and its consequences head on. No longer will we let technology-owners be the ones to dictate who the winners and losers are from these inevitable changes.

We must demand legislative, regulatory, and workplace action to stop the senseless epidemic of attacks on transit workers. No longer should we settle for vehicles that leave us exposed to violence and pedestrians to danger, that are designed to save pennies but cost lives.

Our agenda is big; it is bold. We can start enacting it by turning these recent tragedies into a watershed moment in our fight to improve safety for our members and the riding public in both the U.S. and Canada.

In fact, we already have a plan to do just that. In the U.S., the already-drafted Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act (S. 436 / H.R. 1139) will ensure major, critical safety changes in all transit systems.

This legislation would require all transit agencies to create risk-reduction plans and install physical barriers to protect drivers. It would also require U.S. transit agencies to report on a wider range of incidents.  It also calls on U.S. transit agencies to collaborate with workers to swiftly address dangerous bus driver blind spot problems.

While the bill is gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, with more than 148 members of Congress co-sponsoring the bill (as of press time), we need more support, especially from Republicans. The only way members of Congress will support a bill is if they hear from their constituents.

That’s why we need all of our members to contact their Members of Congress and tell them to support this critical legislation now. To find out how to contact your Members of Congress, just visit https://bit.ly/protecttransitworkers. It’s easy and will only take a few minutes of your time.

In Canada, we are working with ATU Canada and our Canadian Locals on similar protections and legislation while leaning hard on local agencies to take action
such as in Edmonton, AB, where all buses will have operator shields.

I’ve been a member of ATU for 38 years and know that  our union and members are progressive, aggressive,  and impressive. We can seize this moment of collective sorrow and use it to launch an unprecedented wave of collective action.

And I know our members from Pensacola, FL, to Port Alberni, BC, from San Diego, CA, to St. John’s, NL,
and everywhere in between, will renew our campaign for social, racial and economic justice for all. Because Together We Fight!