Bus drivers walk out in protests

CORVALLIS - Nearly 60 bus operators who work for Laidlaw Inc. under contract with the City of Corvallis and the Corvallis School District went on strike for a second time April 5. The 2 p.m. walkout by members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 757 forced the cancellation of all city transit routes for the remainder of the day while only four of 42 school routes were filled by scabs.

Twenty bus operators in the Bethel School District near Eugene conducted a similar walkout against Laidlaw April 5 and were immediately locked out. The employees represented by Teamsters Local 305 have been trying to obtain a first contract for more than a year.

Both the ATU members and and Teamster members struck for one day in March. Those walkouts canceled all city and school bus routes for the day.

The ATU strikes are in protest to numerous unfair labor practices committed by Laidlaw as workers have tried for 16 months to obtain a first contract there. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently charged the Canadian-based Laidlaw with using illegal labor practices not only in Corvallis, but also at the Tigard-Tualatin School District, Tri-Met lift employees in Washington County, and Tri-Met dispatch lift employees in Portland - all of whom are represented by Local 757.

Charges also have been issued against Laidlaw at the Bethel School District in Lane County.

"In filing the charges, the NLRB found that Laidlaw shows a pattern of illegal activities," said Ron Heintzman, president of Local 757, noting that the NLRB charges cover some 23 separate violations. In addition to the charges already filed, Heintzman said, "sufficient information was obtained during a meeting with Corvallis drivers to file 13 additional complaints."

The union filed those complaints with the NLRB on April 6.

"Laidlaw is breaking U.S. labor laws and they are flouting it while they earn higher and higher corporate profits," Heintzman said. "They act like they are above the law and the same arrogant high-handedness is what is keeping some of their full-time employees on public assistance."

Support from parents and citizens during the work stoppages was extremely high, the union reported. The public sentiment against Laidlaw is also running high with demands for the City Council and School Board to take action to resolve the dispute.

"We refuse to believe that the Corvallis City Council will help a law-breaking Canadian corporation hurt Corvallis citizens," Heintzman said. "It's time for the City Council and the Corvallis School Board to intervene to settle this dispute."

The union has launched an initiative petition campaign that would set prevailing wage and benefit rates for Corvallis city transit operators based on the average wages and benefits provided transit employees who work for other transit districts within a 100-mile radius of Corvallis. The union needs 2,300 signatures to qualify the measure for the September ballot in Corvallis.

Several Saturday campaigns involving members of ATU 757 and other local unions have produced "a significant number of signatures," Heintzman said. The deadline to turn in signatures is May 11.

April 16, 1999 issue

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