About 100 members and supporters of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 rallied at rush hour March 9 at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square to protest TriMet positions in collective bargaining. Among other things, the tax-supported public transit agency is proposing to eliminate its longstanding apprenticeship programs for light rail and bus mechanics.
Local 757 is also challenging what union officers say is a scheme to privatize bus service for the benefit of big companies like Amazon and FedEx. TriMet received state funds to expand transit service, and passed those funds to Multnomah County, which subcontracted with a private company called ecoShuttle to provide free weekend bus service from Gresham Transit Center to the Amazon and FedEx facilities in Troutdale. The shuttle follows the route of TriMet Bus #81, driven by nonunion drivers who are paid as little as $15 an hour.
The rally date marked 150 days since TriMet and Local 757 began bargaining a new contract, and it’s the point at which either side could declare impasse and set a clock ticking toward mediation and binding arbitration. So far, neither side has pulled that trigger, and further negotiations took place March 12 and were scheduled for March 19. TriMet is saying it doesn’t have to negotiate over the apprenticeship program, but Local 757 is disputing that before the Oregon Employment Relations Board. A decision may come by mid-April.