Amalgamated Transit Union

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Amalgamated Transit Union
Formation15 September 1892; 130 years ago (1892-09-15)
TypeTrade union
HeadquartersSilver Spring, Maryland, US
    • Canada
    • United States
Membership (2020)
International President
John A. Costa
International Secretary-Treasurer
Kenneth R. Kirk
International Executive Vice President
Yvette J. Trujillo
Affiliations Edit this at Wikidata
Formerly called
  • Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees of America
  • Amalgamated Association of Street, Electric Railway and Motor Coach Employees of America

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) is a labor organization in the United States and Canada that represents employees in the public transit industry. Established in 1892 as the Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees of America, the union was centered primarily in the Eastern United States; today, ATU has over 200,000 members throughout the United States and Canada.


The union was founded in 1892 as the Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees of America. The union has its origins in a meeting of the American Federation of Labor in 1891 at which president Samuel Gompers was asked to invite the local street railway associations to form an international union. Gompers sent a letter to the local street railway unions in April 1892, and based on the positive response arranged for a convention of street railway workers.[2] The convention began on 12 September 1892 in Indianapolis, Indiana, attended by fifty delegates from twenty-two locals. Many of the smaller unions were affiliated with the AFL, while four larger locals were affiliated with the Knights of Labor and two were independent.[3]

The first president was William J. Law from the AFL-affiliated local in Detroit.[3] Detroit was chosen as the headquarters, using the same facilities as the Detroit local.[4] Because the number of members affiliated with the Knights of Labor was greater than the numbers affiliated with the AFL, according to the claims of the delegates, the new international remained unaffiliated despite pleas by Gompers.[4] The objectives included education, settlement of disputes with management, and securing good pay and working conditions. The international was given considerable authority over the locals.[5]

The second convention was held in Cleveland in October 1893, with just fifteen divisions represented by about twenty delegates.[6] At this meeting William D. Mahon was named president, and he still held this position in 1937. By then the union had been renamed the Amalgamated Association of Street, Electric Railway and Motor Coach Employees of America.[2] The union struggled in the early years as the transit companies followed the practice of firing union activists. In the 1897 meeting in Dayton, Ohio, there were twenty delegates. The treasury of the union now had $4,008.[7] An early achievement was to have laws passed in a dozen states by 1899 that mandated enclosed vestibules for the motormen. Wages were close to $2 a day where the union was established, and in Detroit and Worcester the nine-hour day had been achieved, although in most cities ten- or eleven-hour days were common.[8]

At the start of the 20th century the Amalgamated Association launched a militant organizing program. Although the union was always willing to arbitrate in disputes, there were many strikes against the streetcar companies. Often these turned violent, as in St. Louis in 1900 or Denver in 1920. The public and small businesses sympathized with the strikers, and passengers and other unions often became involved in the street actions.[9] When buses began to replace streetcars, the association began to be challenged by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Stablemen and Helpers. It was agreed that the Amalgamated Association would have jurisdiction over buses operated by street railway companies, while the Teamsters would have jurisdiction over independent bus lines and over road transportation of goods.[10]

Political and legislative activities[edit]

In 2008, the ATU endorsed Hillary Clinton in her unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination; after she conceded defeat, the ATU endorsed Barack Obama in his bid to become president.[11]

The ATU was named the "Most Valuable National Union" in The Nation magazine's Progressive Honor Roll of 2012 for its support of the Occupy movement, the National Day of Action for Public Transportation, and other social justice issues.[12]


Year Location
1892 Indianapolis Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees of America is founded in September 1892
1900 St. Louis St. Louis Streetcar Strike of 1900
1903 As electrically powered streetcars became more common, the name was changed to the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America.[10]
1908 Chicago Chicago Tunnel Company refuses to recognize the Amalgamated Association. On 9 May all workers go on strike. Company uses strikebreakers to break the strike.[13]
1909 Omaha An attempt to organize Omaha streetcar workers fails when armed strikebreakers are brought in.[14]
1910 Philadelphia The streetcar union launches a strike in February 1910. Violence erupts, and the strike escalates into a general strike of unions in all industries on 4 March, involving about 100,000 workers. After three weeks the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company agrees to negotiate.[15]
1912 Boston Boston streetcar workers go on strike. After two months they gain the right to form a trade union, and a system of arbitration for future disputes is agreed upon.[16] President Mahon cedes jurisdiction over carpenters, painters, electricians, and other skilled trades to the AFL. The union's membership is divided into 34 distinct labor units, each with a separate agreement negotiated with the company's representative Cyrus S. Ching.[17]
1913 Indianapolis Indianapolis Streetcar Strike of 1913 starts on 31 October. After rioting, the Indiana National Guard is brought in and the city placed under martial law on 5 November. As a result, Indiana enacts laws that set minimum wages, regular hours and workplace improvements.[18]
1916 Washington, D.C. Workers on streetcars in Washington, D.C. are organized when local 689 of the Amalgamated Association wins recognition after a three-day strike.[19]
1935 Omaha On 20 April 1935 a long and violent strike begins in Omaha, but is not successful.[20]
1936 New York City Negotiations for the Transport Workers Union to join the Amalgamated Association break down.
1944 Philadelphia Despite opposition from the union, white workers walk out from 1–8 August in the Philadelphia transit strike of 1944 in an attempt to block giving non-menial jobs to black workers. Troops are brought in and the workers return to work having failed to achieve their goal.[21]
1947 Cornwall, Ontario Workers at the Cornwall Street Railway strike repeatedly for wage increases throughout August and September in a dispute which is only ended through mediation from Ontario Minister of Labour Charles Daley.
1964 Name is changed to Amalgamated Transit Union
1966 New York City In the 1966 New York City transit strike, the TWU and the ATU both strike against the New York City Transit Authority. The ATU represents 1,750 bus employees in Queens and Staten Island, while the TWU represents 33,000 transit employees.[22] The 12-day strike leads to passage of the Taylor Law, redefining the rights and limitations of unions for public employees in New York.[23]
1983 Greyhound faces growing competition and is forced to drop its fares. To survive, it requests a 9.5% wage cut, which the union rejects. In November 1983 the ATU calls a strike of Greyhound employees, with 12,700 members walking off the job. The union accepts a 7.8% wage cut on 19 December 1983, just before Christmas.[24]
1990 A second Greyhound strike begins in March 1990. Over 9,000 union members lost their jobs when Greyhound hired an army of replacements. One striker was killed when struck by a bus driven by a strikebreaker. The strike drags on and many drivers return to work. The ATU let its members return in 1993.[24]
2006 Toronto 2006 Toronto Transit Commission wildcat strike
2008 Toronto The 2008 Toronto Transit Commission strike is called at 90 minutes notice at midnight on Friday, 2 August. Emergency legislation is passed over the weekend to force the strikers back to work.[25]



1893: William D. Mahon[26]
1946: Abraham Lincoln Spradling[26]
1959: John M. Elliott[26]
1973: Daniel V. Maroney[26]
1981: John W. Rowland[26]
1985: James La Sala[26]
2003: Warren S. George
2010: Larry Hanley
2019: John A. Costa


1892: J. C. Manual[26]
1893: S. M. Massey[26]
1894: M. G. Moore[26]
1895: James G. Grant[26]
1895: Rezin Orr[26]
1917: L. D. Bland[26]
1934: William Taber[26]
1946: Rip Moscho[26]
1968: James J. Hill[26]
1974: John Rowland[26]
1976: Raymond C. Wallace[26]
1989: Oliver W. Green[26]
2001: Oscar Owens
2019: Kenneth R. Kirk



  1. ^ US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-160. Report submitted 30 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b Schmidt 1937, p. 121.
  3. ^ a b Schmidt 1937, p. 122.
  4. ^ a b Schmidt 1937, p. 123.
  5. ^ Schmidt 1937, p. 124.
  6. ^ Schmidt 1937, p. 129.
  7. ^ Schmidt 1937, p. 141.
  8. ^ Schmidt 1937, p. 142.
  9. ^ Molloy 2007, p. 3.
  10. ^ a b Stewart 1936, p. 242.
  11. ^ Amalgamated Transit Union Endorses Barack Obama.
  12. ^ Nichols 2013.
  13. ^ Illinois State Board of Arbitration 1908, p. 95.
  14. ^ Larsen 1997, p. 136.
  15. ^ Stromquist 2006, pp. 168–169.
  16. ^ Boston's Car Strike Settled 1912.
  17. ^ Raskin 1989, pp. 22–35.
  18. ^ Stoner 2011, pp. 110–111.
  19. ^ Schrag 2006, p. 29.
  20. ^ Larsen 1997, pp. 202ff.
  21. ^ Zieger 2007, p. 133.
  22. ^ Marmo 1990, pp. 28–29.
  23. ^ The history of the Taylor Law 2005.
  24. ^ a b Oestreich & Whaley 2001.
  25. ^ Kalinowski & Javed 2008.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r ATU 100 Years. Amalgamated Transit Union. 1992.

Works cited[edit]

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