Heintzman back at helm of ATU 757

Ron Heintzman is back at the helm of Portland-based Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757.

Heintzman was re-elected president and business representative Oct. 24, capturing 58 percent of the 2,733 votes cast in a special election ordered by the international union. A previous election on June 27 - in which Heintzman lost to challenger Wally Feist by 21 votes on 2,333 ballots cast - was invalidated by the national office when it was discovered that 127 union members did not receive ballots. In question, according to Heintzman, who talked to the Labor Press a day after winning re-election, was whether or not the 127 persons were eligible to vote as "members in good standing" with Local 757.

Many of those who did not receive ballots were new hires whose union dues had yet to be received by Local 757. At Tri-Met, for instance, new hires are required to join the union and dues are deducted from their paychecks. Others, according to Heintzman, had not been at work because of injury, illness, family leave, or other matters.

"The Department of Labor has relaxed its interpretation of a 'member in good standing' and now considers new hires as union members in good standing even if the union hasn't received a dues payment," Heintzman said.

As long as an individual has a contractual right to return to their job and the union has the opportunity to recoup back dues, that individual is considered a union member in good standing, Heintzman explained.

Local 757's Election Committee became aware of the voter irregularities when some members who fit into the aforementioned categories called the local saying they had not been permitted to vote. The Election Committee, the local's Executive Board, a majority of union members, and the international union all agreed that any race in the June election that was decided by fewer than 127 votes should be redone. The president's race was the only race affected.

Mail ballots were sent out Oct. 6 and counted Oct. 24. The process was overseen by Federal Mediator Paul Stuckenschneider. Local 757 determined that 4,451 members in Oregon and portions of Washington were eligible to vote. A total of 2,733 members cast ballots, with Heintzman winning by 399 votes.

Heintzman, who has held the post of president and business representative for the past 12 years, said he is now looking to heal the wounds of the union after a tumultuous six months. He said he will visit members at all of the 22 properties where the union has contracts, including Tri-Met, Lane Transit, Rogue Valley Transport and Valley Transit in Walla Walla.

Heintzman will be officially sworn into office Monday, Nov. 20, by ATU International President James LaSala.

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