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ATU Mourns Passing of International President Larry Hanley

Yesterday, the Amalgamated Transit Union and the entire labor movement lost a trailblazing leader and working class champion. Lawrence J. “Larry” Hanley, International President of the Amalgamated Transit Union since 2010, passed away on May 7, 2019. He was 62 years old.

Under Hanley’s leadership, the ATU was transformed into one of the fiercest and most progressive unions in the labor movement, aggressively advocating for more and better public transportation and fighting for social, racial, and economic justice for all working people.

Hanley devoted more than 40 years of his life to the ATU and the broader labor movement. He was a tireless and tenacious advocate for his members, transit riders, and all trade unionists.

Citing Hanley’s leadership and his “aggressively progressive approach to fighting for local and regional services,” the Nation Magazine named ATU the “Most Valuable National Union” in 2012. Hanley’s vision helped make “the 200,000 members of ATU…a force to be reckoned with.”

Hanley began driving a bus in 1978, at age 21, in Brooklyn, NY, and attended his first union meeting that September as a member of the Transport Workers Union (TWU). In 1979, he transferred to Staten Island and became a member of ATU Local 726. On his first strike, he was renowned for walking the picket line every day and night.

He became a shop steward, helped lead a takeover of his borough’s Democratic party machine, and was elected as the youngest president of Local 726. In that role, he pioneered worker-rider organizing, leading thousands of union members and transit riders in a successful effort to reform the way transit service was provided on Staten Island. He ran the Staten Island operation of David Dinkins’ successful campaign for mayor of New York and helped found New York’s Working Families Party.

In 2002, Hanley rose to become an ATU International Vice President before being elected as a reformer to the office of International President in 2010. As International President, Hanley restructured the ATU to better fight back against rising privatization of public transit and to protect the livelihoods of transit workers across 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and nine Canadian provinces.

One of the many hallmarks of Hanley’s storied career was recognizing the power and strength that can be achieved in uniting transit workers and riders in the fight for better public transportation. He also firmly believed that an educated member was a powerful one and made it his mission to develop one of the most far-reaching training programs in the history of organized labor. Because of his efforts and commitment, thousands of ATU members have been trained and inspired to engage in trade union struggle where they work and in the struggle for justice in their communities. 

Hanley is survived by his wife Thelma, his brother James, his daughter Monica, and his son Lawrence, Jr.