The Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) expressed condolences over the death of Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department for the AFL-CIO.
WIllis, 53, died Sunday as a result of injuries sustained in a biking accident on Nov. 22.
“Larry’s passing is a tremendous loss for all who knew this thoughtful, tireless advocate for the transportation and labor communities,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “Larry always was clear-eyed about his mission as the head of TTD — protect and fight for the people that keep America moving. I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his family at this remarkably challenging time.”
Said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker, “The short line railroad community extends its sympathies and condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Larry Willis. He was a major voice in the transportation, infrastructure, and labor communities, and his leadership and expertise will be missed by all.”
According to TTD Secretary-Treasurer Greg Regan, Willis was involved in labor for more than 20 years, serving as TTD president since 2017. Other roles included secretary-treasurer, chief of staff, general counsel, and legislative counsel and representative at TTD.
The union said Willis died with his wife and daughter by his side.
“We mourn today the shocking loss of a brother and fierce advocate for working people. … 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, Regan said.
Regan continued, “During his tenure at TTD, Larry faced some of transportation labor’s most daunting challenges. He met those and other crises head on, showing an unwavering dedication to working people and their unions, and a deep-seated desire to help those suffering from circumstances beyond their control.”
Willis’ reach extended beyond rail; for example, he was involved in advocating for pro-labor interests in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill of 2018, according Regan.
“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,” Regan said.
“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. Though his time with us has been cut short, Larry’s legacy will live on in the legislation he helped shape, the policy makers he reached through thoughtful, sophisticated arguments, the colleagues and staff he influenced and mentored, and the working people he dedicated his life to,” Regan said.
Willis held a B.A. from the University of Iowa and a J.D. from John Marshall Law School, which is affiliated with the University of Illinois at Chicago.