Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

December 6, 2002

MEL SCHOPPERT, a 30-year international vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), has been accorded membership in Labor's Hall of Fame by the sponsoring Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council. The honor was given Schoppert posthumously. He died of cancer at age 77 last May 28 at his Portland area home. He was still serving as the ATU's senior international vice president when he died. A memorial service was held June 4 at Lincoln Memorial Funeral Home in Southeast Portland. Following the service, there was a funeral procession to Lincoln City, on the Oregon Coast, where he was interred.

BEFORE HIS PROMOTION in l972 to an international vice presidency, Schoppert had been the leader of the ATU's Portland Local 757. He served as the local union's business agent for 10 years. In that decade, he developed a reputation as a highly effective lobbyist at the Oregon Legislature at Salem. During his tenure, virtually every bill that was introduced at the behest of Local 757 was passed into law. The highlight of his lobbying career was passage of a law enabling the TriMet mass transit system to be established in the Portland metropolitan area. The law also permitted other cities and counties in the state to set up their own mass transit agencies.

Schoppert lobbied for passage of the mass transit statute in collaboration with the leaders of the Oregon AFL-CIO, including Edward J. Whelan, president, and George Brown, the political and legislative director. They also worked with him in obtaining passage of other legislation beneficial to transit workers. That legislation included an occupational driver's license law, a special pension law for transit workers, and a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of working and retired private transit system employees in the event of a government agency taking over a private system.

THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, passed by the 1965 legislative session, called for a public vote on the issue in the 1966 general election. Schoppert directed the campaign for passage of the amendment, which 79 percent of the voters approved. It is one of the highest ratification rates for an Oregon ballot measure.

On the political front, in Schoppert's years as a Local 757 officer, he and the union were involved in more than 100 political campaigns for Democratic, Republican and non-partisan candidates, plus campaigns for and against ballot measures. He was a member of the Metropolitan Study Committee, which eventually led to establishing the regional government agency now known as METRO.

MEL STARTED his transit career in 1952 as a driver for the Portland Traction Company. In an interview earlier this year with historian James Strassmaier, Schoppert recalled that he at first protested when he learned that he had to join the Amalgamated Transit Union. Later on, angry over the unfair dismissal of a co-worker for being seconds late in reporting in, Schoppert became active in Local 757 as a shop steward and as a liaison officer. He recalled to Strassmaier that drivers threatened a strike to force the bus company to install right-hand side mirrors on its vehicles. Schoppert encouraged the hiring of women and minorities for transit jobs.

SCHOPPERT LEARNED to be a skillful labor contract negotiator in his years as Local 757's leader and he honed his technique as an international vice president. In his three decades as an ATU VP, he bargained hundreds of contracts in Oregon, Washington, California and elsewhere. He was one of the union's top negotiators.

He was born in the community of Clackamas where his father farmed, and lived in the Portland area all his life, except for four years of military service in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, in which he saw combat in island-hopping campaigns against Japan in the South Pacific. He belonged to the Elks, Masonic and Shriner lodges.

His survivors include his wife Darlene and two brothers, Ray Allen and Fred Schoppert, both of Sandy. His first wife, Wanda, whom he married in 1950, died in 1996. He married Darlene in 1999. Local 757 named its building at 1801 NE Couch St., Portland, Schoppert Hall in Mel's honor.


ALBERT J. CHRISTY of Corvallis, a longtime member of the International Association of Machinists (IAM), died at age 78 of leukemia on Aug. 26. He was a member of Portland-based Machinists Local 1432 and had retired in 1989 after working for 27 years at Evanite Hardboard in Corvallis.

For many years he was a delegate to the IAM District Council 24 in Portland and was secretary-treasurer of the Linn-Benton-Lincoln Counties Central Labor Council, which holds its meetings in Albany. Christy was active in the IAM, serving as a shop steward, negotiating committee member and on a District 24 board that conducted hiring interviews of candidates for business representative jobs. At one time he was selected for a business agent post but a recession caused the IAM to cancel financing it. He completed an IAM leadership school in Florida in the 1970s.

HE WAS BORN on Nov. 16, 1923 to Albert and Ina Christy in the Curry County town of Sixes, and spent most of his boyhood at the Klamath Agency on the Klamath Indian Reservation, where his father was employed as a forester. He graduated from Chiloquin High School. He underwent pilot training in the U.S. Navy at a base at Corpus Christi, Tex., and was a lineman on the base's unbeaten football team which defeated the University of Oklahoma and other major collegiate elevens. He also was on the base's wrestling team and won several championships in his weight class of 175 pounds.

Christy graduated from Oregon State at Corvallis and obtained teaching certificates in vocational agriculture and science. He taught at Shedd High School in Linn County and later at a high school in Cedarville, Calif., which is in the northeastern corner of that state. At the California school he coached basketball, football and wrestling. He also was a volunteer firefighter at Cedarville.

Later, he moved his family to Klamath Falls where he farmed for a few years before relocating in Corvallis.

He married Dorothy Davis in 1946. She died in 1982. He married Rosalie Systma in 1987. ORGANIZATIONS TO WHICH he belonged included Rotary and Toastmasters clubs. Bowling, fishing, hunting, football, wrestling, rodeos and dancing were among his leisure interests.

Survivors include his wife, Rosalie; four sons, Albert D. Christy of Philomath, William Christy of Bend, Bradley Prosa of Los Angeles and Tod Prosa of Corvallis; three daughters, Carrie Brevik of Vancouver, Wash., Shirlee Johnson of Bend, and Denise Prosa of Boise, Idaho; four sisters, Shirley Systma of Chimacum, Wash., Sharon Debord of Lodi, Calif., Mary Fenton of Bothel, Wash., and Ina Smith of Tigard; 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a four-year-old daughter, Dee, and a brother, William.

His funeral took place on Aug. 30 in Corvallis.


THE FIRST CENTRAL LABOR council type of organization in the United States was the Mechanics Union of Trade Associations, made up of unions of skilled craftsmen in different trades, which was formed in Philadelphia in 1827. This organization also started the first labor newspaper in America, The Mechanics Free Press, which was first published in 1828.


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