It didn’t sit well with Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle. Since union contract bargaining began in October, TriMet has been proposing to scrap its bus and light rail maintenance mechanic training programs. Hoyle was elected with union support last year to head Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), and part of that agency’s responsibility is to oversee and promote apprenticeship programs.
On Dec. 11, Hoyle turned up during the public comment section of a meeting of the TriMet board of directors to ask that the agency drop that proposal.
“I don’t generally weigh in other government’s collective bargaining processes,” Hoyle told commissioners. “But I was shocked to see your successful apprenticeship program put on the table as a bargaining chip, as if job training is something that only benefits workers.”
“You’re proposing to eliminate a program that produces highly qualified employees for middle to high wage jobs that you have difficulty filling,” Hoyle said. “And yours is one of the most diverse programs in the state.”
According to BOLI, 23% of TriMet’s current apprentices are people of color and 13% are women. Union workers in low-skill, low-wage bus cleaning positions see the training program as a pathway to a better life. Fifty-six apprentices are currently enrolled in TriMet’s apprenticeship programs, and when they complete it, they’ll earn wages averaging $34.98 an hour as journeyman rail technicians, heavy duty bus mechanics, and plant maintenance mechanics.
Hoyle’s comments got no reaction from TriMet board members or general manager Doug Kelsey. TriMet is a tax-and-fare-supported public transit agency serving Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. Its unelected board is appointed by the governor.
On Dec. 14, Hoyle launched an online petition, using the email list assembled by her political campaign. The message is simple “Tell TriMet: Don’t Eliminate Apprenticeships!” Union supporters can sign the online petition at valhoyle.com/trimetpetition.