Community Member

Women of Action, ATU Women’s Caucus NOLA

New Orleans, Louisiana

Women of Action is a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union’s (ATU) Women’s Caucus representing New Orleans, LA. The ATU is the largest labor union representing transit and allied workers in the U.S. and Canada, comprising more than 200,000 members, including metropolitan, interstate, and school bus drivers and others. The ATU Women’s Caucus was formalized in 1990. As president of Women of Action, Valerie Jefferson is calling attention to the environmental impacts of noise and air quality on transit workers’ health. Statistics show that constant exposure to exhaust fumes can lead to health issues around asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, and even some forms of cancer. While the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority has been gradually switching over from fossil to biofuels, Jefferson is advocating for a switch to an environmentally friendlier all-electric fleet.  

ATU International Women’s Caucus Conferences 2023, Austin, TX (Photo courtesy of Valerie Jefferson)

Jefferson had served as President of the ATU Local 1560 for three years between 2019 to 2022, representing more than 300 members. She oversaw union business daily operations and served as a contracts negotiator between the union and the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Jefferson was a transit worker for 27 years before getting fired from her job in 2021 for doing what her colleagues elected her to do as their union president – stand up for them. Despite the health risks of the COVID-19 pandemic, transit workers remained on the frontlines. Hailed as heroes, federal funds were earmarked to assist transit systems nationwide. While many thanked their employees with bonuses, Jefferson had to threaten a strike before bonuses were paid. That same year, after Hurricane Ida hit, drivers worked 12-hour shifts operating buses as cooling centers for residents without power and transportation to shelters. She was fired after demanding RTA honor an earlier agreement for additional pay. 

Valerie Jefferson (second from left) at ATU International Women’s Caucus Conferences 2023 in Austin, TX (Photo courtesy of Valerie Jefferson)

For more information:

Some bus drivers got COVID hazard pay, sick time. Others got t-shirts – CBS 4WWL, April 2021

2 RTA Employees Fired After Asking About Hurricane Pay; Union Calls For CEO’s Removal – WWNO – New Orleans Public Radio, September 2021

RTA Union president alleges retaliatory firing over hurricane hazard pay – The Lens, September 2021

Dorothy Terry

Dorothy Terry

Dorothy Terry is a journalist by profession, having worked as a daily newspaper reporter on both coasts and a contributing writer for several national magazines. She is a former Congressional press secretary and has worked as a communications manager and consultant for corporations and nonprofits.


Valerie Jefferson, President


Climate Impacts

Flooding, Heat, Hurricanes/Tropical Storms

Environmental Justice Concerns

Air Pollution, Hazardous/Toxic Sites, Logging/Biomass, Port/Transit/Highway Contamination/Noise


Art Activism, Community Organizing and Education, Direct Relief and Aid, Political activism, including protests, petitions, and lobbying

501c3 Tax Deductible


Accepting Donations