Shirley Block wins top office at ATU 757

TriMet road supervisor Shirley Block was elected president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 June 23, defeating incumbent Bruce Hansen and two other challengers, Henry Beasley and Cris Orlando. In mail ballots counted by the union election committee, Block received 1,156 votes (48 percent) to 849 votes for Hansen (36 percent), 324 for Beasley (14 percent) and 58 for Orlando (3 percent). All told, 2,387 of the union’s roughly 4,800 members voted.

Shirley Block in front of Schoppert Hall, ATU Local 757 headquarters.
Shirley Block in front of Schoppert Hall, ATU Local 757 headquarters.

Block is the first woman, and the first African-American, to be elected to the top union office in president of Local 757 since its founding in 1917. She’s also the first African-American unionist to be elected to a top union office in the Portland area since 2006.

At Local 757, president is also a full-time business representative, and oversees a staff of seven and two other full-time officers: vice president and financial secretary.

Block ran on a slate with incumbent vice president Jon Hunt and incumbent financial secretary Mary Longoria, both of whom were re-elected. Hunt won with 47 percent of the vote, outpolling Dan Martin and Christopher Day. And Longoria got 61 percent of the vote against challenger Anna Hicks. Complete results are here.

Block, 62, grew up in Florida and Michigan, the daughter of hard-working migrant laborers. With a nursing license at Wayne State University, she worked in Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital before moving to Portland in 1974 for the weather. She worked as a nurse, then got a job as TriMet bus operator in 1981. She also married, had a daughter, divorced and remarried, and raised 11 foster children. Her daughter works at TriMet, as did her husband, now retired.

In the 34 years Block has worked at TriMet, she’s been a bus operator, fare inspector, field operations coordinator, and road supervisor. She’s also served several terms as a member of the union Executive Board.

Within the union, she’s known as an outspoken critic of TriMet management, regularly calling them out in her monthly column in the union newsletter. Her campaign for union president focused on countering attacks on union health and retiree benefits. Block said her unhappiness with the TriMet contract settlement — particularly some union concessions on health care — prompted her to run for office.

Now she says she’ll work to re-establish unity and head out to meet members far from the union’s Portland headquarters. Local 757 represents transit workers throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, including bus drivers, mechanics, cleaners, and other workers at TriMet, Lane Transit District, C-TRAN, and a number of smaller transit districts, as well as several units of school bus and paratransit workers. More than a dozen collective bargaining agreements will need to be renegotiated in the next three years, including the TriMet contract, which expires November 30, 2016.

For his part, Hansen says he’s proud of the number of employees reinstated and grievances settled during his one term. And relations with TriMet have thawed somewhat since he took office. Hansen, 46, says he will return to his job as a TriMet bus operator and remain active in the union.

In other Local 757 officer races:

Six Local 757 members were elected unopposed to the union Executive Board: Anna Tompte, First Student Portland Public Schools; Charisse Wall, Portland Public Schools; Ken Richins, Salem Area Mass Transit District; Geff Worland, TriMet Merlo Maintenance; Joe Ruffin, TriMet Light Rail Maintenance; and Bruce Duncan, TriMet Monthly Rated Employees.

There were also eight contested races for Executive Board: Roy Jennings outpolled Randy Smith and Scott Miller at C-TRAN; Carl Faddis outpolled John Gelsomino at Lane Transit District; Gary Hernandez outpolled Laverne Ballard at TriMet Center Transportation; Kevin Kinoshita outpolled Joe Worland and Mike Pucik at TriMet Center Maintenance; Jeff Ackerson outpolled Linda Jauron-Mills and Mike McCurry at TriMet Merlo Transportation; Gordon Duncan outpolled Tom Horton and Terry Jorgensen at TriMet Powell Transportation; David Kay outpolled Stephanie Hale and Lee Irvine at TriMet Powell Maintenance; and Anthony Forrester outpolled Neal “MotorMan” Berlin at TriMet Light Rail Transportation.

Members also elected liaison officers to the Board: Joe Zimmer, Bend Area Paratransit; John Shreves, C-TRAN; Gail Bennett, C-VAN; Brian Newhouse, C-TRAN Represented Staff; John Oliver,  First Student Corvallis City Transit; Alex Smith, First Student Portland; Kathi Brown, First Transit TriMet Lift Region 1; Cathy Redwine, First Transit TriMet Lift Region 2; Matthew Leist, First Transit TriMet Lift Region 3; Lora Rangel, Lane Transit District Extra Board; Bill Bradley, Lane Transit District Maintenance; Jason Patterson, MV Transportation Canby; Roger Spry, Rogue Valley Transportation District; Zach Leeth, Salem Area Mass Transit District Maintenance; Rick Dietz, Tillamook Transportation District; Justin Bott, TriMet Powell Extra Board; Jean Strickland, TriMet Light Rail Transportation Ruby; Jody Moulton, TriMet Light Rail Ruby Maintenance; Evette Farra, TriMet Portland Street Car; and Mark Brotherton, Valley Transit.

John Hampton was elected Lane Transit District secretary.

The new officers began their three-year terms July 1.

 

[CORRECTION: This article previously said Block was the first woman elected president of Local 757, but reader Tom Horton brought to our attention that Andrea Dobson was elected ATU Local 757 president in 1988, and served one three-year term. At that time, Local 757 president was a non-paid position, and the local’s top union office was business representative. The two offices were later combined into one position. So the article has been modified to clarify that Block is the first woman (and African-American) elected to the local’s top elected office.]

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