November 30th, 2012 | Aaron Mesh News | Posted In: Transportation, PDX News

TriMet, Union Can't Agree Whether Contract Negotiations Are Public Meetings

A circuit court judge will decide

     
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TriMet's contract with its employees union expires today, and the transit agency was supposed to sit down at the bargaining table with its drivers this morning.

But that's not happening—because the two sides can't agree on whether the contract negotiations are a public meeting or not.

An announcement from Amalgamated Transit Union 757 president Bruce Hansen says TriMet and the union will ask a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge for a legal ruling on whether a neutral third party should be allowed to sit in on the sessions.

Union officials skipped this morning's scheduled meeting, saying they won't show up until the public-meetings question is resolved.

"That's what we're going to leave in the hands of a judge," Hansen tells WW. "Last negotiation, they played their games, and we want the public to know what's going on in TriMet."

TriMet officials were not immediately available for comment.

In recent days, TriMet and ATU 757 have sparred in a flurry of letters over whether the negotiations should be open to the public (the union's position) or closed, but with some press allowed to attend (TriMet's stance).

It is only the most recent chapter in a spectacularly fractious history between the transit agency and its union.

An arbitrator ruled three months ago that TriMet did not owe its drivers $5 million in benefits on its expiring contract. Back in 2010, WW gave the transit agency and the union co-Rogue of the Year status after the two sides couldn't agree whether they should meet at all over the health benefits, which TriMet says are crippling its finances.

 
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