Could labor relations be on the mend at TriMet? For most of the last decade, TriMet and the union that represents its employees have had an icy and litigious relationship. While Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 has seldom backed away from a fight, arguably it was TriMet’s labor relations director — Randy Stedman — who set the tone of acrimony. Hired in 2011 by then general manager Neil McFarlane, Stedman adopted a bellicose posture in contract bargaining, made frequent public criticisms of the union, and indulged in behind-the-scenes provocations of union officers.
In February, general manager McFarlane retired and was replaced by Doug Kelsey. In June, Stedman’s deputy Britney Colton left for a position at the Stoel Rives law firm, and was replaced by Laird Cusack, a former HR manager at Portland Public Schools and King County Metro Transit.
Now Stedman is retiring as of Nov. 14. Longtime TriMet attorney Kimberly Sewell is replacing him as new executive director of labor relations and human resources.
At the Oct. 24 meeting of TriMet’s board, Block encountered Stedman for maybe the final time.
“I wished him well … and told him to stay away from ATU,” Block said with a chuckle.
Block said going forward TriMet and the union will no doubt continue to have disagreements, but she’s cautiously optimistic they’ll be easier to resolve with Sewell. Sewell scheduled an informal breakfast meeting with Block for Nov. 2, something Stedman never did in seven years.
TriMet and the union will be meeting next year to negotiate a new contract covering over 2,500 TriMet employees. The current agreement runs through Nov. 30, 2019.