Larry Willis, head of federation of Transportation Workers, Dies in Bike Accident

Larry Willis’s colleagues liked to joke that he kept a copy of the Railway Labor Act, passed a few years before the Great Depression, under his pillow.

“He loved the wonk,” said his wife, Amy York. “He could explain things in a way that normal people could understand.”

Willis spent decades immersed in the arcane details of transportation law, pressing for workers’ rights during moments of national crisis, from the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to the coronavirus pandemic, and the quiet times in between.

He sought progress as a congressional staffer and eventually as president of a labor federation representing 33 unions and millions of workers, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, bringing what colleagues said was an intense curiosity and decency to a mission rooted in his sense of justice and Jewish faith.

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