September 29th, 2010 5:33 pm | by HANK STERN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

TriMet Union's Response to McFarlane Memo

TriMet bus

As we reported yesterday, TriMet general manager Neil McFarlane laid out some grim news on wages and health care costs for union and non-union employees.

Well, the union—Amalgamated Transit Union #757—responded today with a "not so fast" letter from president Jon Hunt, in which he called McFarlane's message a "crude attempt to incite anxiety in folks" or as Hunt put it, "blatant and clumsy 'game playing.'”

This back-and-forth (today's volley first reported on OregonLive) comes with two pieces of context: The union and management are at an impasse in contract negotiations, and the transit agency is trying to convince voters it's getting its fiscal house in order because it's got a $125 million bond measure on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The union letter doesn't help TriMet's election pitch, given that Hunt writes, "TriMet management has and is wasting public money. That information is helpful to the Union in the collective bargaining process since TriMet is claiming it's broke." Hunt adds that the union will set up a web site to gather information about TriMet management's "wasteful practices."

Here's the entire ATU response:

ATU's general counsel specifically informed TriMet's general counsel, Brian Playfair, that all of the Union's full time officers and most of its executive board officers would be attending the International convention this week in Florida. She requested that TriMet take no negative actions with regard to the Union members until we return next week.

So what happened? Surprise, surprise. One day into the convention and TriMet management directly contacts every bargaining unit member to inform them that TriMet will be freezing wages (in December, over 60 days from today) and charging for health insurance (in January, over 90 days from today). Putting aside whether these threats are legal (they are not) you should ask yourself why TriMet management had to take this action, in the absence of the Union officers, this week. The answer can only be management's crude attempt to incite anxiety in folks. Put even simpler--blatant and clumsy “game playing.”

As a courtesy to TriMet, the Union agreed to mediate with management over the unfair labor practice complaint. The mediation date is October 22, 2010. In the meantime, many of you have come forward with instances where TriMet management has and is wasting public money. That information is helpful to the Union in the collective bargaining process since TriMet is claiming it's broke.

The Union is therefore announcing that it will be establishing an internet website within the next two weeks. This website will be for the purpose of gathering and publishing information about TriMet management's wasteful practices. The website will provide you with the opportunity to provide information in confidence, without being identified. Further information about the website will be posted in the near future, so stay tuned . . .
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