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Dec 18

Transit Union names new training center in honor of Rosa Parks and Tommy Douglas

Center to train future generations in the tradition of these two courageous leaders

Washington, DC - The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) has named its new training center in honor of Rosa Parks and Tommy Douglas, heroes ATU members regard as two of North America’s most courageous leaders.

"The Parks/Douglas Center will open its doors to train future generations in the tradition of these courageous two leaders and heroes of the ATU," says Larry Hanley, international president of ATU, the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada. “It will serve as a center to train leaders for the progressive reform movement in Canada and the United States, as both these heroes did for their countries.”

ATU acquired the campus of the former National Labor College last summer and plans to dedicate it to Parks and Douglas next spring. 

A woman who risked her personal safety and perhaps her life for the freedom of all Americans, Rosa Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) took bold action by refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, AL, bus in 1955. 

Her action came to be regarded as a watershed moment in the history of the civil rights movement," said Hanley.

“Rosa Parks was the most effective transit passenger organizer in the history of our nation,” Hanley said. “America is a better place today because of the singular stand she took on a bus against segregation. But the struggle is far from over, and we call upon all Americans to demonstrate the same determination Rosa Parks did in fighting injustice today.

Dedicating the building to her memory where we train new leaders will be constant reminders of the faith, courage, and commitment she exemplified – essential qualities of any activist leader.

The man who led the fight in Canada to provide health insurance for all, Thomas Clement “Tommy” Douglas, (October 20, 1904 – February 24 1986) was a often called “the greatest Canadian.” 

A Baptist minister and champion boxer, he left the pulpit for a political platform. A powerful orator and tireless activist, he was elected to serve as a Member of Saskatchewan’s parliament, and later, premier of the province – an office he held for 17 years.  He introduced the continent’s first single-payer, universal health care program; a program that would eventually be adopted across Canada.

After setting up the Saskatchewan Medicare program, Douglas was elected as the first leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), formed in 1935, to advance the cause of Labour. He was a strong advocate of the Canada Pension Plan and was considered the “conscience” of Parliament on matters of civil liberties.

"A staunch supporter of public transit, Douglas believed in the crucial role of civil rights and the great potential of cooperation for the common good," said Hanley. “He is a role model for all future progressive leaders.”

“The Parks/Douglas Center will open its doors to train many generations in the tradition of these two leaders,” Hanley continued. “Future generations of organizers will draw from the brilliance, strength and courage of these two models of community action and leadership and we will forever celebrate the generosity of their spirits and legacies. They will live in us.”