Were it not for the Union....
So Much Accomplished
The ATU is now entering a third century in which it will fight for transit and
allied workers in Canada and the United States. Founded in 1892, the ATU has been an integral part of the labor movement in
North America. It is amazing to reflect on all of the improvements the labor movement has brought which we now take for granted.
Today, most workers look forward to Friday because it is the last day of their work week. When people say, "Thank
God it's Friday!" they don't realize that they should be grateful to the unions for creating the weekend too!
labor fought for years to limit the work week to six and then five days per week. And, don't think those were eight-hour days!
Unions also had to fight to reduce the workday from as many as 16 hours at the beginning of the 1900s.
How many people
think of unions when they plan their vacations? I'll bet it never enters most people's minds, yet without unions, the modern
vacation would be just a dream for the working class.
Ditto for retirement. Few of us plan to work until we drop, yet
at one time that was not uncommon. Without unions most working men and women would have little to look forward to in their
Pensions, Social Security and Social Insurance became reality because unions fought for them. Because of
unions, poverty and destitution are no longer natural consequences of old age.
What If You Get Sick?
And what happens
if you get sick? Does your employer tell you that you'll be fired if you don't come to work?
What happens if you become
disabled? Do you end up on the street? And what happens if you die? Will your family be forced to live in the poorhouse?"
We don't expect that any of these misfortunes will befall us any longer. Yet, at one time, this was the reality for working
The reason we don't worry about such calamities is that unions fought for health insurance and sick leave, disability
retirement, and life insurance. These benefits have become so commonplace that some even think that employers decided to provide
these things out of the goodness of their hearts.
Such is the success of the labor movement that we are
now far removed from those hard times. We have become so comfortable that we have forgotten our own history.
I could go on and on. We don't expect our jobs to be perfect, but we expect to be treated with a certain degree of fairness
which is enforced by laws in every state and province - thanks to unions. What about the minimum wage, job safety and even
public schools? How different our lives would be without these things - all of which happened because of unions.
no accident that the rise of unions in our two countries happened at the same time as the rise of the middle class. It is
hard to imagine how most of us could enjoy our current lifestyle absent the introduction of collective bargaining In the workplace.
Similarly, it is hard to imagine how large corporations could have grown throughout the 20th century without a middle
class to invest In their stocks or purchase their goods and services. It would be impossible, for instance, for Bill Gates
to have been successful with Microsoft if there was no middle class to purchase PCs.
And even though not all workplaces
are organized, union contracts have created the standards by which all other jobs are judged.
So Much to Do
much of which to be proud, yet, we cannot afford to become complacent. Those who argue that so much progress has been made
that we no longer need unions must have their heads in the sand. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The
rich and the powerful still employ lobbyists who work to roll back the laws which protect our rights and our livelihoods.
A growing underclass in our cities works at two and three jobs each day, and, still, they are poor. Sharecroppers are
a thing of the past, but our economy still depends on farmworkers who are paid slave wages, yet are told that they don't deserve
to send their children to public schools.
Corporate interests are chipping away at the things we thought we could rely
upon. As I write this, Atlanta is rolling out the red carpet for the rich and famous at the Superbowl, even as Atlanta-based
Coca-Cola announces that it is laying off over 6,000.
Guaranteed benefit pensions are being replaced with under-funded
retirement plans. And more companies force their employees to work just under a full-time load in order to avoid paying health
insurance and other benefits.
While we redouble our organizing efforts, big business is doing everything it can in Congress,
Parliament, and in state and provincial legislatures to pass "right-to-work" (for less) laws, to cut back on the enforcement
of rules that keep us safe on the job, and to muzzle our voice in politics.
Toward those ends the anti-union
alliance develops ever more sophisticated techniques. Unions need to update their approach as well. The AFL-CIO is inaugurating
a "New Alliance" program to promote new methods to do what has always proven successful - bringing together all parts of Labor
and local communities to unite behind organizing campaigns.
This is also the best way to address problems within unions
themselves which, like all human institutions, are far from perfect. Instead of criticizing each other and the contracts that
are negotiated, we must work together to make improvements and be grateful that we have a union and a contract in the first
Rather that splitting into factions that can be exploited by our adversaries, we must work toward common goals.
There is quite a lot yet to do. God-willing, we will continue this fight into our third century, and pass this work on
to our children and grandchildren who will accomplish more than even we could imagine.--Former International President Jim
From the Jan-Feb '00 In Transit Journal by ATU
Benefits provided by the Union
The following benefits have been made available through the Amalgamated Transit Union. Additional information may be obtained
on these various programs by contacting your local union officers or the International office at: 5025 Wisconsin Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20016-4139; tel: 1-202-537-1645.
Contract Negotiation: ATU local officers, assisted when necessary
by our International Vice Presidents, represent bargaining unit employees in contract negotiations for improved wages and
benefits and just treatment on the job. We negotiate over 100 agreements each year and pride ourselves on the best contracts
in the transit industry.
Grievance Handling: The ATU represents its bargaining unit employees in disputes with
their employers in matters of discipline or unfair treatment on the job. The Union regularly secures back pay awards for employees
who have been unjustly fired from their jobs. Well-trained local union officers help ensure our contracts are faithfully implemented
and our bargaining units' rights are protected.
Research Assistance: The ATU assists locals with the economic,
safety, health, and other information needed to conduct professional negotiations with managements, resolve questions, implement
new regulations and respond to changing needs in the transit industry.
In Transit Magazine: The ATU distributes
a bi-monthly magazine, In Transit, an official publication which provides important information about the Union.
Dispatch: The ATU keeps all of its officers in the United States and Canada informed of the latest developments through a
monthly publication, the ATU Dispatch.
Seminars: The ATU is at the forefront of the Labor Movement in terms of
education in both the U.S. and Canada. Seminars are regularly offered on arbitration techniques, collective bargaining, local
union financial administration, grievance administration, leadership training for officers, organizing, health and safety,
and women's issues -- as well as legislative and political programs.
Legislative Program: The ATU International
maintains a full-time legislative program which, in conjunction with local unions and members, lobbies Congress and state
legislatures to promote the interests of our members.
ATU-COPE: The ATU conducts yearly nationwide fundraising
to support its ATU Committee on Political Education, which makes contributions on a bi-partisan basis to the campaigns of
local and national candidates for public office in the U.S. who are supportive of our values on labor and transportation issues.
Organizing Program: The ATU has three full-time organizers on its staff who will respond to requests from those
interested in organizing their workplace.
Canadian Council: The ATU maintains a full-time office in Toronto,
Ontario, for the purpose of responding to the needs and desires of our Canadian membership . The Council addresses their legislative,
political, educational, cultural, social, and economic concerns.
Commercial Drivers' License Program: The ATU
provides materials which make up a comprehensive training program including workbooks with audio and video cassettes to help
employees pass the CDL Exams and qualify to operate commercial motor vehicles.
Substance Abuse Program: The ATU
makes available its own publications informing affected employees of drug and alcohol testing requirements in the U.S. and
Funeral Benefits: The ATU maintains a historic funeral benefit program to help with funeral expenses.
Union/Management Cooperation: The ATU is at the forefront of the Labor Movement in promoting union/management
cooperation programs at our properties all over the U.S. and Canada. The Union strives to conduct an on-going dialogue with
the transit industry that leads to the early resolution of disputes and the mutual pursuit of common goals such as public
funding of mass transit and increased ridership.
ATU Scholarship Program: The ATU offers an annual scholarship
competition to union members and their dependents in order to further the education of those who have an active awareness
of union issues.
ATU Multiple Sclerosis Research Funds: The ATU conducts annual fundraising drives in the U.S.
and Canada to fund research to combat the disease of multiple sclerosis.
---taken from the ATU International
ATU Local 1433 * P.O. Box 4363 * Phoenix * Arizona * 85030