October 2012 Open Thread

Time for another open thread:

  • Metro has a new fact sheet up for the Southwest Corridor.
  • There’s more bad blood between TriMet and ATU757. Three month’s ago, TriMet won the arbitration case which allows it to impose its last, best offer on the union–the main financial effect of which is requiring union members to contribute to their health insurance. But the decision is retroactive to 2009. If it were a decision against TriMet, it would be straightforward for the agency to cough up back pay and benefits–this sort of thing happens all the time. Instead, the ruling went against the union, and TriMet is considering demanding union members reimburse it for the premiums and such they would have paid were the agreement in effect.
    The union has provided samples of the letters that TriMet reportedly intends to send out to employees demanding reimbursement (at this point is not clear if such letters have actually been sent). The union maintains that despite winning the arbitration, TriMet is not entitled to enforce it retroactively–and the arbitrator noted that doing so might prove difficult (would TriMet be able to claw back premiums from retired operators, for instance?) As a result, ATU has advised its members to refuse to submit to any payment demands that TriMet might issue, and TriMet has responded with a complaint to the state Employee Relations Board.
  • More budget woes at TriMet–new pension reporting rules passed last summer by GASB will further highlight the woefully underfunded state of the pension and OPEB (other post-employment benefits) plans.

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