ATU 689 Birth: 1916-17
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 represents nearly 13,000 active and retired dues-paying members, primarily working at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority as rail and bus employees, maintenance and operations and some clerical workers.

The union’s 100th birthday will occur January 19, 2016.

It was organized in early 1916 after several years of failed efforts. A one day strike in March produced recognition by the Capital Traction Co. and the Washington Railway & Electric Co, but the WRE broke the union the following year.

The union retained its foothold at Capital Traction and ultimately became the representative of nearly all transit workers in greater Washington area with public acquisition of private bus systems in 1973 by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

The union has continued to grow mainly through expansion of the Washington Metro system, but has seen increasing competition in recent years from privatized bus operations in all the jurisdictions in the D.C. area that have reduced real wages and benefits.

The union (and sometimes its members acting without approval of the union structure) have waged high profile strikes in 1916, 1917, 1945, 1951, 1955, 1968, 1974 and 1978.

DC’s transit workers had previously been represented by the Knights of Labor from the mid 1880s up to the turn of the century.

The Amalgamated established Division 161 in 1901 with the active involvement of AFL president Samuel Gompers, but the unit fell apart after its president, John McCrackin, was fired by Capital Traction and the union could not get the backing from the workers to strike.

Subsequent attempts by the Amalgamated were unsuccessful until the Amalgamated’s International secretary-Treasurer Rezin Orr led an organizing drive to establish Division 689.

For information and related images on the 1974 strike, see flic.kr/s/aHsjtLttyR

For information and related images on the 1978 strikes, see flic.kr/s/aHsjC75vur

For information and related images on the 1945 strikes, see flic.kr/s/aHskafBRH5
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