TTD President Larry Willis dies

Nov. 30, 2020
Willis served as president of the TTD, AFL-CIO since 2017 and was called a ‘fierce advocate for working people.’

Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trade Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), died Nov. 29 from injuries sustained from a Nov. 22 biking accident. Willis is survived by his wife, Amy, and daughter, Samantha. Willis was 53.  

TTD Secretary-Treasurer Greg Regan called Willis a “fierce advocate for working people” and noted his death as a loss to the entire workers rights community.

“For more than 20 years, Larry dedicated his life to the labor movement, working tirelessly to enhance the rights and livelihoods of those who work on the front lines of our transportation system. In addition to serving as president, a position he was elected to in 2017, Larry also served as secretary-treasurer, chief of staff, general counsel and legislative counsel and representative at TTD. His mastery of complex legal and regulatory issues set the foundation for TTD’s policy leadership, and raised the bar for demanding and enforcing worker protections throughout our nation’s transportation system,” said Regan.

In his role as president of TTD, Willis oversaw the daily operations of the organization, which includes affiliated unions such as the American Train Dispatchers Association, Amalgamated Transit Union, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Laborers’ International Union of North America, Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), SMART – Transportation Division, Transportation Communications Union and Transport Workers Union of America, among many others.

“Larry’s advocacy style was straightforward and effective: forge meaningful relationships with leaders at all levels of government and across the political spectrum, build power through unity and find ways to work together to lift up all transportation workers,” said Regan. “Millions of people have had their lives improved because of the work Larry did, yet most of those people will never know Larry’s name. For Larry, that didn’t matter. He was not motivated by fame or fortune – his end goal was always about doing the most good for the greatest number of people.”

Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said Willis was known as someone who was dedicated to improving working conditions for millions of people. 

“Larry’s determination and ability to build support within both parties made him a force to be reckoned with on Capitol Hill. I will forever be grateful for his partnership on countless labor issues over the years, most recently working together to make sure frontline workers have the personal protective equipment they need to stay safe. His time on earth was cut far too short, and it’s now on all of us to carry on Larry’s legacy by never giving up the fight for our brothers and sisters in transportation labor," said Chair DeFazio.

The committee's Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) added, "Larry was a dedicated champion of the transportation workers across the nation, and for years he’s been an important leader in the development of federal infrastructure policy."

U.S. Rep. David Price (D-NC), chairman of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, noted Willis’ leadership to ensure safe transportation systems benefited the “nation and the traveling public.”

“Larry’s dedication was evident throughout his distinguished career, and his steadfast determination to fight on behalf of our nation’s rail, transit, aviation and maritime workers will forever be enshrined in the legislation he helped shape and the lives of those who worked with him,” said Rep. Price.

Robert Puentes, president and CEO of Eno Center for Transportation noted Willis’ devotion to the needs of working people across the transportation landscape.

“Eno is particularly grateful for the advice, guidance and insight Larry and his team provided on critical transportation topics ranging from governance, to new mobility, to funding and finance. Larry always kept public and private transportation employees front-and-center and the nation benefitted tremendously from his work and dedication,” said Puentes. “Eno joins America’s labor movement, particularly transportation unions, as well as many other voices in honoring Larry’s life and our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”

Transportation for America Director Beth Osborne said labor and transportation advocates have "lost a powerful force for good." 

“For almost 20 years, Larry has been one of my go-to people for support and creative thinking in labor and transportation policy. His dedication to the TTD was what brought so much positive change to the sector and millions of Americans, from his fight for a robust stimulus package in 2009 and more recently, COVID-19 relief and protections for transit workers. Our thoughts are with his family and his colleagues at TTD in this difficult time,” said Osborne.

Amtrak CEO William Flynn said, “The entire Amtrak team joins me as we mourn the loss of Larry Willis, a true champion of the nation’s transportation network and the workers who make it possible. Larry was a strong advocate for Amtrak and believed in the need for a robust, modern, well-funded national passenger rail network for the nation. Our thoughts are with Larry’s family, his TTD and labor colleagues, and all of those in the transportation industry that were touched by Larry’s deep passion and fierce advocacy for transportation workers during this difficult time.”

While the transportation industry will remember Willis’ advocacy, he was also a devoted son, husband and father.

“[Willis] loved Camp Echo, biking, traveling with his wife, cheering on his daughter at swim competitions and playing tennis with his father,” said Regan.

This page will be updated with memorial information if it is made public.

-------------------

This story has been updated from its original posting to incorporate statements from Amtrak, Transportation for America and congressional representatives. 

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.