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At 60th Convention, Amalgamated Transit Union Sets Vision for Future - “Stronger Together”

Delegates elect International President John Costa and the first-ever female International Executive Vice President, mourn fallen members

Las Vegas, NV – “ATU” and “Stronger Together” was the call and response echoed this week as hundreds of delegates of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) gathered in Las Vegas, NV, for their 60th convention after the past few challenging years of the pandemic and a tragic mass shooting that took the lives of San Jose members. 

ATU delegates laid out their strategic vision to build power for transit workers and riders, address changing technology and autonomous vehicles, promote mental health in the workplace, and embrace women’s, gender, and racial equity. A special memorial ceremony was held to honor and mourn deceased Local officers, members lost to COVID-19, San Jose Local 265 brothers killed in a mass shooting, and one brother who took his life afterward.

On Thursday, the 627 delegates representing more than 200,000 ATU members re-elected John Costa as International President. Yvette Trujillo was elected as ATU’s first-ever female International Executive Vice President. Ken Kirk was elected International Secretary-Treasurer after assuming the position after the passing of International Secretary-Treasurer Oscar Owens in late October 2019. Delegates also elected 18 International Vice Presidents and delegates to the AFL-CIO convention.

“I'm honored to stand here today.  I am honored and humbled,” said Costa as the delegates chanted ‘Costa, Costa, Costa’ after he was elected. “But the energy that you give me to do this job is remarkable.  This is a great union. We are one big family.  And I just want to recognize and thank everyone here for your support.  It's just been a remarkable week. Now we continue the important work of fighting for the rights of our members.” 

Also re-elected by delegates were International Vice Presidents Richard Murphy, Marcellus Barnes, Gary Johnson, Michelle Sommers, Jim Lindsay, Manny Sforza, John Callahan, Curtis Howard, Natalie Cruz, and Anthony Garland. Delegates also elected Raymond Greaves, Stephan MacDougall, Ken Wilson, Amanda Sawyer-Malone, Arturo Aguilar, Jacques Chapman, Mark Henry, and Ken Day.

ATU embraced its reputation as one of the most progressive unions in the U.S. and Canada, with delegates overwhelmingly passing resolutions advancing women’s and gender equity on the job and within the union; combating racism in all its forms, supporting Universal Healthcare, fighting climate change by expanding public transit, backing the Richard L. Trumka Protecting The Right To Organize (Pro) Act, protecting the right to vote, and protecting ATU members from labour attacks throughout Canada.

In the wake of the mass shooting in San Jose, CA, and the growing epidemic of attacks on transit workers and violence on public transit, the delegates passed resolutions promoting mental health, preventing workplace violence, and implementing the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act.

Delegates heard video messages from President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. They also heard from Labor Secretary Marty Walsh; AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) General President Edward Kelly, International Transport Workers’ Federation General Secretary Stephen Cotton, Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) President Bea Bruske, and several union and nonprofit leaders from across the U.S. and Canada. 

“And to all of the transit workers of the ATU, thank you, thank you, thank you. You heard me say it before. The middle class built America and unions built the middle class, especially transit workers,” Biden said in his video message. “You kept us moving through the pandemic, even as many of your brothers and sisters made the ultimate sacrifice in the process.  And you are a lifeline to millions of fellow Americans, helping them get to work and care for their families. Now, I always have your back, I promise you like you have had mine, John.”

Labor Secretary Walsh praised ATU members for the work they do. “You work tough schedules.  You deal with health risks.  You even face violence on the job, yet your members show up every single day to serve and protect and move their communities forward. And our economy depends on every one of you in this room and all of your members,” Secretary Walsh told delegates. “So instead of attacking their rights, we should be defending their rights.  Instead of cutting their benefits, we should be expanding benefits, especially coming out of a pandemic. You put your members put your lives on the line every single day.”

IAFF General President Kelly spoke about the heroism of ATU members during tragedies like 9/11. “We did what we always do. We step up, just like the ATU and the IAFF did 21 years ago when our nation was attacked on 9/11.  I'm proud to call the 344 IAFF members who made the ultimate sacrifice my brothers.  But I'm also proud to call the ATU members, who played a critical role in evacuating lower Manhattan, including injured people, my brothers, and sisters, too,” said Kelly. “You continue to show up every single day and serve your communities.  You are the backbone of the cities, towns, and neighborhoods across the United States and Canada.”

CLC President Bruske urged delegates to organize more union members to increase the power of the labor movement. “When our member's numbers grow, we grow our influence.  And when our members, our existing members, become engaged, we can shape the direction of our countries, and that is how we can build a new economic and social model with workers at its core.  And it's how we can create a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable future for everyone,” said Bruske.