June 4, 2010 Volume 111 Number 11

ATU says Bend Area Transit harassing union officers

The private non-profit that runs Bend’s bus service is targeting union supporters for discipline and harassment, according to a charge the union filed April 7 with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Paratransit Services Inc., headquartered in Bremerton, Washington, has contracts with eight local transit districts in Washington, Oregon, and California to provide city transit or disabled/elderly paratransit service. For Bend Area Transit, the company provides both services, and employs 36 members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 — drivers, dispatchers and customer service representatives.

The unfair labor practice charge, which the NLRB is investigating, is only the latest allegation of anti-union behavior by Paratransit. Management waged a vigorous months-long anti-union campaign leading up to a January 2007 vote on whether to unionize. The union won the election, but Paratransit challenged the outcome, and refused to recognize and bargain with the union until after Bend City Council sent a letter calling on them to do so. In April 2007, Paratransit Services fired pro-union worker Russ Evans; the union fought for and won reinstatement. It wasn’t until May 2008 that Paratransit signed its first union contract in Bend, a three year deal that expires June 2011.

Now, according to the union, Paratransit Services is singling out union leaders with stepped-up scrutiny and discipline.

Vic Gilardin, the unit’s liaison to the Local 757 Executive Board, says he was subjected to increased scrutiny, harassed, and wrongfully disciplined. On different occasions, Gilardin said, as many as three supervisors followed his bus in unmarked cars to watch his driving. Gilardin was twice suspended for three days without pay, the first time for making a turn incorrectly (an accusation he denies), the second time for getting out of a van-style bus on the driver’s side and helping a fellow driver clean her bus and fuel up at the end of her shift so she could make a doctors appointment. Gilardin has been a bus driver 25 years, the last five of them at Bend Area Transit, and said he never had problems before.

The union also alleges that employee Cynthia West got similar treatment after she filed a grievance; that union steward Melanie Gibson was denied her “Weingarten” right to have a witness present during a meeting with management; and that employee Jim Hutchings was discriminated against in a wage classification decision because of his pro-union activities.

“We fought to get the union,” Gilardin said. “We got it. Now they’re making us pay for it.”

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