James Whalen

Current Company and Position: Director, Transport Workers Union Local 100 Retirees Association; International Vice President, Transport Workers Union of America; Trustee and Member of the Pension Investment Committee of MTA-Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority (MABSTOA) Pension Fund.

First Job: After graduating DeWitt Clinton High School, I worked at a gas station and auto repair shop. I started out pumping gas and doing road service. I wanted to be a mechanic. A wonderful man and senior mechanic at the station, Ed Lowe, helped me every day and taught me everything he knew about the job. This helped me enormously in securing my career with the MTA-MABSTOA as a bus maintainer.

What it taught me: My experiences in my first job convinced me that one should always help your co-workers, and always be willing to pass along your knowledge and experience to those coming onto the job. I found out that I liked helping others on the job, and it formed the basis of my career as a union officer fighting for the rights of my brothers and sisters in transit.

Best advice you could give someone starting out: Go to work every day.  Give the employer a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Respect your supervisors and your co-workers, and the respect will be returned to you two-fold. Always support your union. Attend union meetings and be willing to get involved.  Finally, always pass your knowledge and expertise along. When you see one of your co-workers doing a job the way you showed them, it will be a satisfying reward.

Who is your hero and why? Definitely my dad, James Whalen, Sr. He was a wonderful father, loving husband and courteous gentleman to all. He worked hard as a truck driver to provide for the family, and he came home every night after work to have dinner with us and my mother. He raised me and my two brothers as respectful young men that we carried with us throughout our lives.

Biography: James Whalen is International Vice President of the Transport Workers Union of America, and Director of the TWU Local 100 Retirees Association.  

He has also served as a Trustee and Member of the Pension Investment Committee for the MTA-MABSTOA Pension Trust for the past 25 years.  During that time, he has helped transform the fund from one with heavy unfunded liabilities to a trust that will be 100 percent funded in the next two years. 

James was first elected to a union position in 1986 as Maintenance Vice Chair at the Kingsbridge Depot in Manhattan. He was elected to numerous other union positions and also served as a full-time organizer for TWU Local 100. 

He was elected to the TWU International Executive Board in 1997, to the Executive Council in 2001 and as Vice President in 2005, a position he still holds.

He is a life-long resident of the Bronx, NY where he shares his home with his wife Ester, who was born on Easter in the beautiful town of Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland. He traces his strong Irish roots to Armagh in Northern Ireland.

He is a member of the MABSTOA Emerald Society and was honored by that organization in 2002 as Irishman of the Year. He was also recognized for his contributions to TWU’s Irish-American traditions at the TWU Local 100’s annual Quill-Connolly Celebration in March 2019.

2024 Irish Labor Awards