Four months before its much-vilified contract expires, the TriMet employees union has upended a power structure that has held sway for nearly 25 years.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 elected Bruce Hansen president on Friday—an upset of Ron Heintzman, the take-no-prisoners negotiator who steered the union for five straight terms as president from 1988 to 2002. Heintzman was crucial in winning the union its 1994 contract that broadly expanded health coverage for retirees—benefits that TriMet blames for its current financial crunch.
Johnathan J. Hunt, Heintzman's ally and the current ATU 757 president, was elected vice president. He had moved down the ticket so Heintzman could take the union reins going into contract negotiations with the transit agency. Hunt's term was hamstrung by a 2011 DUI conviction.
Hansen is a longtime bus driver with little record of contract negotiation. He's best known among the union for filing a labor complaint against TriMet general manager Neil McFarlane for creating a hostile work environment by criticizing the union.
In the campaign, Hansen pledged to be more candid with the media than his predecessors, but has not yet returned calls. WW is keeping its fingers crossed.
Hansen also had one of the greatest campaign videos of all time back in 2009, when he lost to Hunt. It's a thing of near-Mike Gravel simplicity.