There were tears, and there was laughter. As ATU 726 president Danny Cassella joked, “This isn’t really a memorial service, it’s a training session. Larry finally figured out how to get you all in the same room. You can pick up your packets on the way out.”
Larry, of course, was Lawrence J. Hanley, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) president who died on May 7 at the age of 62. And the ATU’s Tommy Douglas Conference Center was packed to the rafters Monday with union leaders and members who came, as many of those who spoke – like retired CWA president Larry Cohen -- insisted, “not just to mourn Larry’s loss, but to celebrate his life and legacy.” The ATU’s entire leadership was there, as were all three top officers of the AFL-CIO and many other labor leaders, and among the crowd were many rank and file transit union members, who all seemed to feel a personal connection to the one-time bus driver who rose to lead their union.
“Just as he did as a bus driver,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, “Larry was always taking people with him.” The list of distinguished speakers who memorialized Hanley stretched over two pages in the service’s program book, and they all sounded the same common themes to his life: vision, commitment, fighting spirit, and perhaps most important of all, a sense of humor. Jeff Rosenberg, ATU’s Director of Government Affairs, recalled that Hanley would often break the ice with an audience by asking “Did anybody lose a stack of hundred-dollar bills wrapped in a rubber band? Here’s the rubber band.” Rosenberg also revealed that Hanley was a huge Billy Joel fan and considered “Allentown” one of the best songs ever.
“Larry’s sole concern and overriding focus was for the men and women of both his union and for all of us in the labor movement,” said Metro Washington Council president Jackie Jeter, former president of ATU 689 and an ally in Hanley’s leadership challenge back in 2010. “His ideas, dreams and vision inspired many of us to take on leadership roles and strive to attain those goals.”