Ron Heintzman, a former president/business agent of Portland-based Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 757, and a former ATU international president, lost a three-year battle with cancer on April 2. He was 65.
Heintzman served as the elected president/ business agent of Local 757 from 1988 to 2002. He left to take an appointment as executive vice president for the ATU International Union in Washington, D.C.
In July 2010, he was appointed ATU international president, completing the term of Warren George, who retired. The election for a new term was held at the ATU’s convention in September. There, Heintzman lost to current International President Larry Hanley.
Heintzman returned to Oregon, where he worked for Local 757, consulting with the union on 24 collective bargaining agreements.
Ronald James Heintzman was born in Edmunds, North Dakota, on Jan. 7, 1953. He spent most of his childhood in North Dakota, but finished high school in Seattle.
He graduated from Washington State University in Pullman in 1975 with a bachelors’ degree in political science on an Army ROTC scholarship, and then served two years active duty as a second lieutenant in the Military Police in Fort Hood, Texas. That was followed by 15 years in the reserves.
He moved to Oregon in 1977 to take a job as an agent for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, then attended the police academy in Monmouth, and earned a master’s degree in criminal justice at the University of Portland.
He joined TriMet as a transit police officer in 1982, and ran for the top union job in 1988 on a platform of drivers’ safety.
During Heintzman’s tenure, Local 757 more than doubled in size, growing to over 5,000 members with 23 separate collective bargaining agreements in Oregon and southwest Washington. In recognition of this achievement, Heintzman and Local 757 received the AFL-CIO John Sweeney organizing award in 1997 and 1998.
In 1997 Heintzman helped form a “Sister Union Association” with Romania’s Uniunea Sindicatelor Libere din Metrou. USLM is a labor federation founded in the aftermath of the 1989 revolution that toppled communist dictator Nicolai Ceauçescu. The association has been long-lasting. USLM’s leader, Ion Radoi, attended Local 757’s 100th anniversary celebration last year.
Heintzman is survived by his wife of 29 years, Linda; and two adult daughters, Elizabeth and Kate. He lives in Mt. Angel and the family raises horses.
A service will be held Saturday, May 5, at 1 p.m. at Mt. Angel Event Center, 210 Monroe St., Mt. Angel.