Oregonian Ready to Drop Binding Arbitration for TriMet and ATU

And they’d like the Legislature to fix it.

“Binding arbitration is a high-stakes game of chance that could produce a terrible result for TriMet and the people who rely upon its services. It’s also unnecessary. The Legislature made an enormous blunder in 2007, when it voted in strongly bipartisan fashion to treat transportation workers like police officers and firefighters by forbidding them to strike. While public transportation is a very important public service, and while transit workers deserved to be compensated fairly for their work, getting a ride isn’t a life-or-death matter on par with, say, being stuck in a burning house.”


18 responses to “Oregonian Ready to Drop Binding Arbitration for TriMet and ATU”

  1. As you might have noticed from my comments, I’m with them all the way.

    We never gave approval for our leadership to take away the right to strike.

    If it were me in charge, I’d say sure, let strike and settle who it is that runs trimet once and for all.

    See how the wonderful Jewel of transit districts does without any of its lovely rail.

  2. And the most important point being that the union leadership decided themselves to take away our right to strike. They didn’t bother to ask the members about that.

    What’s the point of a union if we don’t get to decide our own contract?


    Give us back our union.

    And if we lose this or any arbitration then our leaders are culpable for ruining our union.

  3. I suspect that what the Tri-Met management and their business-executive friends are looking for is not so much a strike as a lockout. If it’s possible for the union to strike, I can see Tri-Met firing every union employee on the spot and taking advantage of the unemployment rate to lease routes out to well-connected private bus companies.

  4. David,

    I doubt that TriMet could staff with strikebreakers that quickly, let alone sell off its operations to “well-connected private bus companies”.

    TriMet employs hundreds of union bus drivers, train operators, and mechanics needed to keep the system operational. These are all skilled positions. The operator positions (both bus and train) require specific licensure (bus drivers a commercial drivers’ license plus necessary endorsements for the weight class; I’ve no idea what licensing a MAX operator needs). There aren’t hundreds of unemployed qualified bus drivers out there to be hired.

    Virtually all of the private bus companies that have operations in the Northwest–are organized by the same union (ATU 757) that organizes TriMet. It’s safe to assume that they won’t be brought in as replacement labor.

    Plus, Oregon’s political culture is still union-friendly. John Kitzhaber is not Scott Walker, and strikes me as unlikely to support a full-scale attempt at strikebreaking at TriMet. I could be wrong, of course, but he owes much of his political support to labor.

  5. Yes, the legislation was about the right to strike AND the right to lockout.

    TM administration regrets not having the threat of a lockout to push the union negotiators to, well, negotiate.

    I predict the union will prevail with the pending arbitration decision and will use a similar strategy used for the 2009 agreement for the 2013 agreement.

    The agency will be forced to drive for lower operating costs, especially with health insurance and will be more sophisticated in it’s maneuvers and not get thumped by the Labor Relations Board as with the 2009 decisions.

    If the union repeats it’s status quo strategy and uses arbitration as a negotiating strategy, it will simply lose because the status quo strategy will fail in the 2013-2014 political climate.

    If the TM administration decides it can’t wait for another prolonged arbitration battle, it might rattle the lockout keys (pardon the modified metaphor) if the legislation is reversed.

    A lockout of a business that’s so spread out across three counties would be a bastard to secure. It’s one thing for Caterpillar in Canada to lockout a single site with a big fence; it’s another to protect replacement workers on the street. They’d be betting most union members wouldn’t be able to go more than a week or two without pay.

    Arbitration is not a negotiating strategy. It’s a resolution in response to failure. It’s also a warning about the future. My concern is if the 2013 agreement is resolved through arbitration, the union members will lose way more than through negotiation and compromise.

    ATU member

  6. Lockout!

    “The privilege of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject but man only”

    (Thomas Hobbes)

  7. BTW Herb-

    You do know that you CANNOT hire rail operators OFF THE STREET.

    It’s the rail operators who will win the strike for ATU.

    The buses don’t matter, Trimet has made that clear, but in any labor dispute, its the rail operators that are irreplaceable.

  8. Read “on the street” as transit operators work on the street meaning outside an office building. It’s one thing to secure a workforce in a single structure or complex, another to protect workers all over the district; as on-the-street.

    Why are rail operators irreplaceable? People can be hired to be rail operators. It’s only because of the agreement that rail operators at TM are required to be hired from bus ranks.

  9. “The buses don’t matter, Trimet has made that clear, but in any labor dispute, its the rail operators that are irreplaceable.”

    Al, are you sure about that? I lived in Philly for a long time, and whenever SEPTA workers went on strike (pretty much every time a contract was up for renewal), the buses shut down, but management kept the trains running. Rail service was generally uninterrupted through every strike that took place while I was there. They were always very clear in press releases that “managers will be operating trains.” Granted those were mostly commuter trains, but I would think that if anything, the rules on who can operate a commuter train would be more strict than rules governing MAX operations.

  10. The interesting question would be how many people among management ranks could be converted to ops. But it’s probably easier to staff a commuter line than it is to staff a light rail system with dozens of trains in operation at any given time.

  11. Well I’ve always been in favor of the right to strike, and as I said at the (right wing) Oregonian, our right to strike was taken from us WITHOUT our (members) approval.

    It’s fundamental for union members to have that right.

    There is virtually no point in having a union if the members cannot strike.

    This whole thing is huff and puff and blow your house down.

    It’s a huge bluff by Mr Mcfarlane who makes his career with bluff’s and political intrigue.

    Mcfarlane is no dope however.
    They hired so many newbies that I would imagine they would be too afraid to walk out if it actually came to that. The rank and file of Trimet are not exactly the activist types.

    Hence the strike would amount to a large service disruption, not a shutdown.

    TRIMET has never had a strike, I say its time to give this city one.

    Then we shall see who runs the transit system.

    Whatever happens its win win for the employees it looks like.

    The whole place is a mess in reality. All the employees are making a fortune in the middle of the so called ‘budget crisis’.

    The absurdity is palpable.

    The only people that truly suffer are the riders, the lowest people on the totem pole.

    Transit in America is fundamentally flawed,and that’s why its a complete mess with the public getting the shaft, always.

  12. While public transportation is a very important public service, and while transit workers deserved to be compensated fairly for their work, getting a ride isn’t a life-or-death matter on par with, say, being stuck in a burning house.”

    ~~~>It’s also surprising to see Chris streetcar Smith publish something like that.

    You expect that out of the right wing businessman’s mouthpiece Oregonian editorial board but to be reprinted here is surprising.

    I guess transit dependent peoples lives are not important, of course they are not, this is Amerika after all, if you can’t stand on your own feet then you should just die and be done with it.

    Too bad for them if they can’t to medical appointments, work, or other vital things.

    Too bad for them if they lose their job, home, or even life, your transit service is NOT IMPORTANT enough to keep running.

    I would argue that on a day to day basis transit is more important than police or fire.

    When was the last time you needed the fire department, or the police department?

  13. Al, what do you think a strike would accomplish? What would be a ‘win win’ for the employees? (I’d rather think that a strike would be a dagger for public support of TriMet employees).

  14. The benefit to the public of allowing strikes is that we would see real negotiation over contracts instead of this arbitration nonsense where each side makes an offer and one or the other is accepted. It is unlikely that TriMet workers would go on strike, but they would be able to use that as a threat to get concessions. Likewise, management has lots of things they can threaten to do. The mutual possession of threats is supposed to lead to compromise. In the rare case that management is being completely intransigent, the union can go on strike, but they have to be very careful to make their case to the public, otherwise they will lose the public’s support. Right now it seems to be very hard for the public to know who to root for, and the secretive arbitration process is part of that.

  15. First of all, since when does what the public think have anything to do with public policy?

    answer: NEVER!

    The whole idea of a union is the right to strike.
    Look at this current situation, the union members don’t have a say, some outsider is going to decide for us.



    It’s not working out the way Mcfarlane and his merry band of six figure executives want apparently.

    So they want something different.

    But the real question is why would the arbitrator rule for the union and against the company?

    And there is only one answer, TRIMET EXECS ARE FULL OF S**T!

    The entire propaganda campaign is based on falsities. That is the one and only reason why they would lose.

    Of course the corporate media won’t say that, but that is the way it really is.

  16. Why did Trimet lose the unfair labor practice filings?


    It’s the Trimet executives that are doing all the shady dealings.

    They have the complete backing of the corporate media and non corporate media (like portland transport).

    The only people that see it our way are the activist communities, occupy and opal.

    Anything to do with connectedness or corporatization is fully behind Mcfarlane and his baloney.

    I mean STREETCAR SMITH is definitely part of that structure, so why am I surprised that he would support the Oregonian. I shouldn’t be.

  17. I doubt that public opinion would allow even a week of no work. I think that one day would be sufficient to convince everyone. Of course, it is a chess match. Public opinion and the outrage of a strike would be loud. Then you only do it one day and if TM decided to lock you out, that wouldn’t last long, the public would be beating on their doors and blaming them for the service disruption, don’t you think?

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