Bus and paratransit contractor First Transit has been named 2018 Scrooge of the Year by the nonprofit Portland Jobs with Justice. The award, determined by participants at the group’s annual holiday fundraiser, goes to an individual or entity that was particularly hard-hearted to workers. Participating unions nominate candidates for Scrooge of the Year, and each attendee at the fundraiser gets 20 votes, plus one vote for each additional dollar donated to the workers’ rights group. The Dec. 8 event raised just under $6,000 for Portland Jobs with Justice.
Was First Transit the most villainous of the nominees? Maybe, or maybe its principal detractors were simply the most generous in support for Portland Jobs with Justice. Drivers union Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 both gave generously and rallied fundraiser attendees to cast their votes.
First Transit won because of its alleged chronic heartlessness in failing to provide meal and bathroom breaks to drivers who operate TriMet Lift vehicles for disabled passengers. First Transit is contracted by TriMet to provide the service, but it schedules rides in such a way that drivers have no way to take breaks while transporting medically fragile clients who can’t be left unattended. Because of that, some drivers have resorted to wearing adult diapers.
First Transit employee Cheri Hall, driver for TriMet Lift Region 3 (Clackamas) says the company has also stubbornly resisted setting the same conditions for each of its three Portland-area bargaining units:
Says Hall: “We do the same work. We put in the same house. So why not give us all the same benefits?”
The other nominees
- Daimler Trucks of North America Daimler is a union employer, but it contracts out janitorial and security services to non-union firms. Janitors and guards have spoken out about low wages, lack of affordable medical insurance, and other issues for over a year. Daimler has refused to meet with janitors who are trying to form a union.
- MultiFamily NW This landlord lobby group has been the leader in the fight against renters’ rights here in Oregon.
- Oregonians for Immigration Reform Oregon’s most prominent anti-immigrant group was instrumental in overturning a drivers card law in 2014, and made a failed attempt in 2018 to repeal a 1987 state law that bars state and local law enforcement agencies from apprehending people SOLELY on suspicion that they may have violated federal immigration law.
- Phil Knight Within the footwear industry, this billionaire Nike founder led the way in offshoring production to overseas sweatshops. This year he tried to buy the outcome of an election with $3.5 million in contributions to Republican governor candidate Knute Buehler.
- Freedom Foundation Backed by a web of billionaire-funded foundations, this organization uses mail, email, work site visits and house calls to try to get public employees to drop out of their unions.