North coast bus drivers unionize

A group of 20 drivers and mechanics at the Sunset Empire Transit District in Astoria and Warrenton Oregon have unionized. The workers drive and maintain buses that connect Astoria to Cannon Beach and parts in between.

In May, Sunset Empire driver Jessie Martin reached out to Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757. Sunset Empire management reportedly told workers that “hell will freeze over before there’s a union,” but the decision wasn’t up to management. Members signed union authorization cards, and on Aug. 20 the Oregon Employment Relations Board certified them as members of Local 757.

When contract bargaining starts, they’ll have nowhere to go but up: Drivers now earn $14 to $16 an hour, and work up to six hours without a break. Local 747 reports that almost every driver qualifies for food stamps, several live in tents because they can’t afford the cost of housing, and some walk long distances to work because they can’t afford a car.

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