Landslide union vote at TriMet Lift


THE AYES HAVE IT: The hand of union election observer Roni White shows the tally from her fellow drivers at TriMet Lift Region 3 — 111 for the union, 31 against.

A group of 160 drivers and dispatchers at TriMet Lift voted to unionize in ballots cast Nov. 7. The tally was 111 to 31 in favor of joining Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, which represents transit workers around Oregon.

TriMet Lift is a federally funded paratransit service in which senior and disabled passengers who have difficulty riding regular mass transit can call and schedule rides. But TriMet Lift workers aren’t TriMet employees; they work for UK-based multinational First Transit. First Transit has contracts with TriMet to provide service from three locations within TriMet’s service area. Workers in Regions 1 and 2 have long been members of Local 757, but until now, Region 3, which operates out of a TriMet yard at SE 92nd and Powell, has been nonunion, despite numerous attempts by workers to unionize.

This time, workers made it all the way to a supermajority union vote, and while they were at it, validated an experiment in unity by the Oregon AFL-CIO — experienced staff organizers from AFL-CIO affiliated unions were paired up with paratransit drivers for a “blitz” of home visits to their coworkers. Union-busting consultants sometimes try to frighten workers about the prospect of union people showing up on doorsteps, but that’s how unions must be built — face-to-face contact — when employers monitor workers on the job and refuse to let union organizers on the property.

After the union vote, TriMet Lift workers from several locations celebrated at the Oregon AFL-CIO hall (alongside cab drivers who won the right to form a union-affiliated cab company the same day). Local 757 president Bruce Hansen said First Transit has used the non-union unit against the unionized units; wages for experienced drivers are more than $2 lower at Region 3 than at the previously unionized units. Now that Region 3 is part of the union family, Hansen said, they’ll be better able to raise conditions for all the units.

Once the National Labor Relations Board certifies the results, the two sides would begin bargaining for a first union contract covering the workers.

WELCOME ABOARD: TriMet Lift Region 2 driver Joy LaRochelle, left, takes the hand of new union member Patti Blades from Region 3. UK-headquartered First Transit operates all three of TriMet's paratransit contracts, but Blades' unit — nonunion til now — has had lower wages and benefits than the two unionized units.


  1. Welcome brothers & sisters of TM LIFT 3 to ATU757!!!

    Join our discussion group on Facebook, and let us know how it feels to be a new Union member?

    Peace & solidarity,

    Tom Horton,
    Bus Operator, TM Powell Garage

  2. Man, All the work everybody put into this finally payed off. I remember the first union meeting a wile back only 7 of us showed up and we were scared that one of the Suppers saw us. then the meetings at Illie’s house. I thought that this would never happen.Then Matt got involved and the Afl-cio showed up then Bam! things got rolling. I guess I just took the right People. Thanks Guys!

  3. SNOWBALL EFFECT!!! What a wonderful noise of happy workers at the celebration afterwards… and then to look across the room and listen to the Cab drivers who had also just gone Union shout out our chant along side of us ” We ARE Union!.. We ARE Union!.. We ARE Union!! HUH!” was a wonderful energy to experience! The smiles still shine as we await the bargaining to come to pass!


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