May 18, 2007 Volume 108 Number 10

Bend transit contractor drops appeal of ATU union election

BEND — A May 12 Solidarity Rally for city bus drivers trying to form a union turned into a victory celebration after their employer — Paratransit Services — announced it was dropping its appeal of a union election and reinstating a pro-union employee it fired shortly after the election.

On Jan. 29, Bend Area Transit employees voted 19-15 to join Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757. Paratransit Services, a non-profit corp- oration based in Bremerton, Wash., contracts with the city to provide bus service. The company has transit contracts with various unions in several other states.

It was a hard-fought campaign, with Paratransit Services using all the typical anti-union strategies such as captive-audience meetings with employees and letters to homes. A month after the election, Russ Evans, a newly-elected shop steward, was fired.

The company challenged the election results with the National Labor Relations Board. An NLRB hearings officer overruled the challenge and certified the union. But Paratransit appealed to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C. Waiting for a ruling there might have taken years.

Bus operators and the union appealed to the Bend City Council, which on April 19 sent a letter to Paratransit president David Baker asking him to drop the appeal and recognize ATU.

The Central Oregon chapter of Jobs with Justice, working with area unions and community supporters, planned the May 12 Solidarity Rally featuring State Sen. Ben Westlund, Bend City Councilor Linda Johnson, Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain and others. The unions also got Gov. Ted Kulongoski, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Oregon Labor Commissioner Dan Gardner involved.

With pressure mounting, Baker, in an advertisement published in the Bend Bulletin May 8, announced that the company was dropping the appeal.

Jon Hunt, president of ATU Local 757, said the night before the solidarity rally he negotiated reinstatement for Evans with full back pay and seniority.

Hunt credited the “incredible solidarity” of labor and community groups for the turnaround.

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