Portland Afoot: TriMet “moving towards” asking Legislature to get involved in labor dispute.

Michael at Portland Foot is reporting that TriMet is looking to undo the current Oregon law which treats transit workers as essential (similar to police and firefighters), a designation which prevents labor stoppages (strikes or lockouts) and forces labor disputes into binding arbitration. Hints were dropped about the earlier this month, in particular with Lynn Lehrbach (a local labor leader) being dropped from the TriMet board.

More on this to come. Al M. gets a credit (from Michael) for helping to break this story.

UPDATE: As noted by Michael in the comments, TriMet disputes his initial characterization of the story. While TriMet has broached the subject with legislators, the agency claims that they don’t desire a work stoppage, merely to prod negotiations along.

10 Comments

10 Responses to Portland Afoot: TriMet “moving towards” asking Legislature to get involved in labor dispute.

  1. Chris I
    February 9, 2012 at 6:05 am Link

    While a driver strike at Trimet would be very damaging to the region, particularly the transit-dependent citizens, I believe Trimet needs to have that option. Bus drivers need to start paying a larger share of their medical costs.

  2. bailie
    February 9, 2012 at 10:27 am Link

    Yes labor at TriMet would like the ability to strike so they could have more leverage to increase their benefits.

  3. Michael, Portland Afoot
    February 9, 2012 at 11:51 am Link

    Update: TriMet disputes my interpretation of McFarlane’s statement.

    For the moment, at least, I’ve dialed back the headline but feel the post is accurate. TriMet’s spokeswoman says it is not. I recommend reading my summary of my exchange with TriMet’s spokeswoman this morning.

  4. Michael, Portland Afoot
    February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm Link

    I’d also like to note that my orignal report was not “McFarlane wants a strike” but “McFarlane wants legislature to allow a strike.” Easy to confuse, but very different!

  5. EngineerScotty
    February 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm Link

    The interesting question, of course, is what the position of the state Legislature, and (more importantly) governor Kitzhaber, on all of this is.

    While the governor generally doesn’t get involved in TriMet apart from appointing directors–if Neil or other TriMet representatives are lobbying folks in Salem, that changes things. Neil may be the GM of the agency, but the governor, in effect, is the CEO–he can fire the board when he likes, and he probably could get rid of a GM were he of a mind to. (He can’t fire the GM directly, but he could demand his board members do so, and replace them if they don’t; the only fly in the ointment being that replacements would have to be confirmed by the Senate).

    I’m not suggesting, of course, that the governor should do so (or not). However, I’m noting that having Neil in Salem, especially begging for legislative support in a labor dispute (as opposed to simply begging for more money), changes things–and Neil is advised to be careful. The past two times where governors have gotten rid of TriMet directors were both related to labor disputes–Governor Straub sacked a few board members back in the 1980s for allegedly being too cushy with the union, and Governor Roberts infamously got rid of board president Loren Wyss for not being cushy enough.

    It’s entirely possible that the governor might choose to side with labor in this dispute. It’s happened before. Labor was a big supporter of his election campaign, whereas Portland’s green community gives Kitzhaber at least much grief as they give him support.

  6. Chris Smith
    February 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm Link

    I’d also like to note that my orignal report was not “McFarlane wants a strike” but “McFarlane wants legislature to allow a strike.” Easy to confuse, but very different!

    Which really means “McFarlane doesn’t want binding arbitration”?

  7. EngineerScotty
    February 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm Link

    I remember a year ago, McFarlane was welcoming binding arbitration, fully expecting to win, and accusing the union of delaying the inevitable via ULP (unfair labor practice) complaints.

    But now that the union has prevailed on one such complaint, effectively delaying TriMet’s intended reduction of union benefits by at least a yar (as I understand things, labor relations is not something I have any expertise on), the tish has hit the naf.

    It’s fair to say that TriMet got broadsided. And its not unreasonable to note that much of this is their own fault, judging from the Employee Relations Board order that essentially stripped all of the cost-saving measures out of TriMet’s arbitration offer.

  8. EngineerScotty
    February 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm Link

    Er, a “year” and not a yar. Not trying to suggest that TriMet are pirates. :)

  9. Michael, Portland Afoot
    February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm Link

    Good summary, Chris. Good questions, Scott.

  10. al m
    February 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm Link

    Macfarlane wants to be king, he issues proclamations, he doesn’t even think he needs to follow laws when issuing his proclamations.

    The guy is a Scott Walker, believe me, he wants to bust the union and he will do whatever is necessary to do it.

    Trimet employees,too busy working to pay attention to politics, are starting to wake up to this…

    He blames us for all the problems at Trimet, anybody that has any intelligence at all knows that is not the full picture.

    Endless empire building, endless MAX/streetcar expansion, ALONG with the skyrocketing health care cost have created this problem.

    Scapegoating has been very successful throughout history in getting the masses to do your dirty work.

    TRIMET is becoming irrelevant as a mode of transit in this area.

    Traffic jams are going to get worse and worse because THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE!

    They grew this place beyond their means to support it.

    And in the extreme slap in the face of the community, they continue to expand and hire.

Leave a Reply

By posting a comment, you are granting a license to Portland Transport for your comment. Please refer to The Rules.