At TriMet – The Busses Are Rolling Without any Wheels

By Jonathan Hunt, President

It has been a record number for one year.  I am referring to the number of local newspaper articles and editorials published about TriMet, its financial problems and its contract dispute with the Union representing TriMet employees.  While most of these articles and editorials were slanted in favor of TriMet, the main theme in all of them is that TriMet’s problems were caused by everyone else, except by inept senior management.  And the latest editorial in The Oregonian, which was published in the April 20, 2012 edition, is no exception.

As with most of the prior editorials, the most recent Oregonian editorial once again lays the blame for fare increases and service cuts on the Union, and not where it belongs, with TriMet senior management.  And like previous articles, the media attempts to blame others for TriMet’s problems; the Oregon Employment Relations Board, the TriMet Board members appointed by the Governor, and anyone else they could throw into the fray, always avoiding placing the blame where it belongs, on the current leadership of the agency.

And then there is the blame for the no-strike, mandatory arbitration law that both the media and TriMet are always crying about.  They claim including transit workers under the strike-prohibited law was a mistake because it prolongs the impasses and damages the transit system and the region’s livability.  The law, and similar law that has been in effect in Washington State for many years, has served the public well.  The media and TriMet always fail to mention the fact that had TriMet not violated the law, the current contract dispute would have been settled in 2010.  But, of course, they conveniently like to leave that critical fact out of the story.

Look back during the past thirty years.  TriMet has had four general managers and administrations over this period, including the current one led by Neil McFarlane.  Financial difficulties and claims of revenue shortages are nothing new at TriMet.  Over the years, TriMet has claimed budget shortfalls, some even greater than they are claiming now.  And for the most part, the Unionized workers were always blamed as the main reason for driving up costs.  But TriMet and Union leaders were always able to get past any hurdles, and come to reasonable solutions on addressing the issues; that is, until now.

The current TriMet leadership have made a lot of bad decisions in operating the agency during the past two years, which have resulted in huge wastes of taxpayer dollars.  Not just bad decisions that made the news, but many operational decisions that the riding public didn’t read about, but that adversely affected the services they received from TriMet.  And let’s be clear.  The workers, those who operate and maintain the vehicles, and those who support all activities associated with providing such service, are the front line ambassadors of TriMet.  Those behind the scenes making the operational decisions are insulated from the public, and it is the ambassadors that take the brunt for their bad decisions on a daily basis.

Take a look at some of the senior leadership recently hired by Neil McFarlane, and you may find it easier to understand why the agency is going in the direction it is headed now.  The new general counsel at TriMet, who as a subordinate manager before being promoted was well known for her anti-union views and practices. And the newly hired labor relations director, who bragged on his resume that he was able to get a pro-union election overturned.

McFarlane’s team has informed the Union that in upcoming negotiations scheduled to begin later this year, TriMet will be proposing to delete the Joint Labor Management Committee provision from the contract that was previously negotiated to foster better and improved relations between the Union and the Agency.

Are you starting to get a clearer picture of why the current senior leadership at TriMet is having so many problems dealing with its unionized workforce?

The recent Oregonian editorial was captioned “Wheels coming off the bus”.  The more appropriate caption for the editorial should have been……. “The busses are rolling without any wheels”.  It would much better explain TriMet’s bumpy ride, don’t you think?

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TriMet’s Randy Stedman Hard at Work Earning Those Big Bucks By Sowing Confusion

  • Stedman was hired to be a union buster. Other people applied for Stedman’s position who have a history of working well with union employees. They didn’t get the job, instead, TriMet’s “management team” gave the job to Stedman. Probably because he brags on his resume that he was able to get a pro-union election overturned in the State of Washington. (See his resume, pages two and three.)
  • Mt. Hood Community College hired Stedman and found itself on the brink of a strike. Only after Stedman left the college did labor relations return to normal and a strike was averted.
  • Stedman played absolutely no role in bargaining for the TriMet contract so he hasn’t a clue what happened or what has been proposed. Who is he really the mouthpiece for?
  • The Union has asked TriMet to clarify, in writing, its confusing unprofessional proposal language regarding pensions on numerous occasions and TriMet failed and refused to do so. Now Stedman has produced his letter. Since he has no role in the TriMet bargaining, is TriMet bound by his statements about the pension proposals? We’re still waiting to hear from the authorized TriMet negotiators.
  • The figures on the Union’s health insurance table were TriMet’s own figures. For example, we used the numbers in TriMet’s mailing to the employees for employee cost and the total premium charged the Union for health insurance as the total premium number since we have not been able to get consistently clear figures from TriMet. It appears Stedman is confused and must have rolled dental dental and other benefits into his figures – the parties bargained ONLY about health insurance premiums – not the other benefits. (See TriMet’s mailing to employees and TriMet’s billing to the Union.
  • As stated in the document, the current pension plan is $75+ per month for each year of service. TriMet’s proposal is that all new hires will be put in a new 401(k) stock market-based plan probably of TriMet’s choosing.
  • Stedman apparently failed to read the case the Union won since the $1000 was already in an offer made by the Union and that offer is in the evidence that went before ERB.

Bottom line: TriMet generates a confusing, unprofessional proposal, will not provide clear, accurate information, refuses to provide written clarification and then has its hired union-buster use company resources to complain. TriMet management’s professionalism is at a new low…

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Open Letter to TriMet Passengers:

TriMet’s management team has launched a new fare confrontation campaign that we believe is unsafe and unfair. Specifically:

1. Road and Rail Supervisors have been told that, each day, we must confront a minimum of 35 people per hour, demanding to see their fares.

2. It is “expected” that these confrontations will result in each road and rail supervisor issuing at least 4 citations per hour.

3. These citations will cost the recipient $175 each.

4. We have been instructed that we cannot give warnings and under no circumstances will we be allowed to accept a passenger’s excuse preventing the issuance of one of these expensive citations.

5. We have been given no meaningful or realistic training on how to perform this task in a way that is safe for us, those passengers we confront, and other passengers.

6. We have been instructed to focus our fare confrontation activities on the Yellow Line into and out of North Portland with an emphasis on the Albina/Mississippi stops as well as all stops along Interstate Avenue.

We believe TriMet management’s new enforcement policy is unsafe and unfair to us and to TriMet riders. If you agree, contact the TriMet Board Members or sign the online petition. 

Thank you,

Your TriMet Road and Rail Supervisors

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TriMet’s FairyTale

Follow the link for the recent letter from the Northwest Oregon Labor Council to Neil McFarlane, General Manager of TriMet concerning the ongoing contract dispute as reported by ATU 757 Political Coordinator Mike Pucik. What is interesting is the response the Labor Council received from TriMet, not from Neil McFarlane, but from TriMet’s Labor Relation’s Director, Randy Stedman.

In typical TriMet fashion, Stedman is now floating the idea that the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) may lack jurisdiction over Trimet and its three rulings which found TriMet to be in violation of the law. TriMet never quits. Always trying to put the blame for poor management decisions on someone else.

And what is really amazing is Stedman’s claim that “TriMet is unabashedly pro-union and strongly believes in traditional principles of collective bargaining under PECBA.” It would actually be funny, but unfortunately it isn’t because TriMet leadership really believes this “fairytale” store.

Check out the links and see for yourself:

letter to TriMet:

response from TriMet:


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ATU Communication sent to the TriMet Board of Directors regarding the Lift Audit

February 28, 2012

 Bruce Warner, Chair
TriMet Board of Directors
4012 SE 17th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97202

 Re: TriMet Lift Audit 

Dear Chair Warner, 

At the February 22, 2012 TriMet Board of Directors’ Meeting, you indicated that yourself and other Board members were interested in learning more about the 2008 Lift Audit report prepared by Lauka and Associates, Certified Public Accountants.  That was welcome news.  TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, at the same Board meeting, made comments suggesting that TriMet managers were going to come up with their own numbers.  That was not so welcome news.

 Until the 2008 Audit, TriMet and ATU 757 had long been at odds as to the actual cost of providing paratransit services in-house, as compared to providing such service through private contractors.  TriMet and the Union could never agree on the model and methodology to be used in performing a true cost analysis, which ultimately led to the provision set forth in the parties’ 1998 collective bargaining agreement requiring the audit to be performed.  As I have previously mentioned, the Lift audit did not actually get completed until 2008 because of years of litigation which ultimately forced TriMet to comply.

 Prior to commencement of the audit, TriMet’s General Manager at the time, Fred Hansen, and his leadership committee had to agree to the methodology the audit would cover.  TriMet’s Chief Financial Officer, Dave Auxier, was personally involved in directing and approving each step of the audit procedure.  It took considerable time and negotiations for the parties to agree on the audit parameters.

 TriMet taxpayers need to know the truth.  If it is less cost for TriMet to operate paratransit service in-house, than it costs for private contractors to provide the service, it should be a no brainer.  To rely on TriMet management’s analysis as to what the audit represents, takes the parties back to the pre-1998 agreement argument, and simply, would not be credible.

 We propose that TriMet and the Union jointly direct Lauka & Associates to update the audit, providing them with the 2005 through 2011 TriMet budget numbers, pursuant and in compliance with the 1998 collective bargaining agreement.  Lauka & Associates would present their findings before a public meeting of the TriMet Board of Directors, providing all parties the opportunity to ask questions regarding the audit findings.  This is transparency.  This is what the TriMet Board of Directors should demand.

 We look forward to hearing from you.



 Jonathan Hunt
President-Business Representative


cc: TriMet Board Members
     ATU members


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Another Bad TriMet Management Decision

In a decision that contained blistering comments about the negotiating behavior of TriMet’s management team’s negotiating tactics, the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB), for the third time, ruled against TriMet in an ongoing labor dispute with its union. At the bottom of the dispute is a colossal error made by TriMet negotiators. They failed and/or refused to put a wage offer on the bargaining table. Then they tried to correct that failure at the last minute by proposing a brand-new wage proposal to the interest arbitrator.

 ERB rightfully rejected this tactic noting that the timing of TriMet’s first wage proposal “eliminated any chance for the earlier steps in the bargaining process to work. Such a significant and last-minute change in position demonstrates TriMet’s lack of good faith.” One board member was even more blunt, stating “TriMet does not appear to have learned its lesson.”

 TriMet management also delayed the process considerably. On September 12, 2011, ERB found that TriMet’s last minute offer violated ORS 243.672(1)(e). Instead of accepting the established law, however, TriMet appealed the Board’s decision and lost a second time. But, instead of submitting a proposal that complied with both of ERB’s orders, TriMet managers, again, failed to comply.  Now, in an order dated February 16, 2012, the ERB has once again followed established law and ordered TriMet to submit a wage proposal that reflects its position at the bargaining table—status quo. What this means, is that TriMet must continue the wage increase language from the expired 2003-09 contract. 

 Thus, TriMet management’s bad decision cut the agency’s own bargaining throat.

 TriMet must increase all unionized employee wages by 3% retroactive to June 1, 2011; by 2.1% increase retroactive to December 1, 2011, and by 2.9% wage increase due on June 1, 2012. 

 The question to ask is who should pay for this obvious blunder; taxpayers, or the TriMet management team that caused the liability? 

 The ERB decision leaves only one major issue on the bargaining table, health insurance. And despite TriMet management’s delaying tactics, the Union is hopeful of resolution. “All of this delay was unnecessary,” says Jon Hunt, President of ATU 757.  The Union, according to Hunt, has made many offers to resolve the insurance dispute over the last two years, but TriMet repeatedly rejected those offers—even when the savings were those TriMet managers claimed they were seeking. 

 “TriMet has repeatedly blamed the union and its leadership for their budget problems and failure to obtain a contract. The real fault, however, lies with TriMet’s management team’s own ineptness. They could not bargain within the law and they have been steadily increasing their managerial ranks and capital expenditures while crying poverty, raising fares and cutting service. The Governor just appointed new TriMet Board members, saying it was time for new leadership and new vision.  Media editorials have recently called for changes to the TriMet Board, the Union and even the ERB, attempting to blame them for TriMet’s financial trouble, rather than TriMet’s management team. This makes one wonder how much public money has gone into management’s recent media misdirection campaign which included a slick, multi-colored brochure handed out to thousands.”

 Well, the time for new leadership and new vision certainly is here, claims Hunt.  “It’s not the Union leadership or the ERB that needs changing.   It’s time for new top management leadership at TriMet. No more excuses.” says Hunt.  “How many more millions of dollars will taxpayers have to foot the bill for because of poor management decisions?” asks Hunt.

 Other unfair labor practice charges for violating the contract when TriMet unilaterally began charging members for insurance coverage on January 1, 2011, and for retaliation, are still pending.  Should TriMet be found guilty, TriMet could be liable for reimbursing active and retired TriMet employees for insurance premiums which is expected to total, by TriMet’s own calculations, 10 million dollars.

 “How many more bad decisions have to be made before those responsible are held accountable?  How long do taxpayers have to pay for bad decision after bad decision by incompetent but, highly-paid, public employees, in this case TriMet senior managers?” asks Hunt. 

 What is management’s real agenda? According to Ron Heintzman, former ATU International President and ATU Local 757 president between 1988 and 2002, the current administration is the most anti-worker and anti-union band of characters he has seen in his 30-year association with TriMet.  “I’ve worked with four general managers and numbers of TriMet Board members over past years, and I would have to say that this management team has the worst labor-relations record and a clear inability to treat TriMet workers fairly.” said Heintzman. “In my opinion, they have a clear union-busting agenda.”

 To view OERB’s recent ruling, go to, select Board Orders and click on UP-016-11.





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For Immediate Release: TriMet Causes Further Delay in Contract Arbitration Dispute

TriMet has repeatedly accused the ATU of causing delays in preventing the contract dispute interest arbitration from being held in a timely manner.  Now, once again, TriMet’s failure to comply with the order of the Oregon Employment Relations Board (OERB) has resulted in the contract interest arbitration hearing date being pushed forward to May 14, 2012.


When the parties reached impasse in July 2010, they expected the contract interest arbitration to be held by the end of the year.  When TriMet submitted its final offer to arbitration as required by law, the Union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the OERB, alleging that TriMet’s proposal violated state law.  That action automatically delayed commencement of the arbitration.  The OERB agreed with the Union and found TriMet guilty of violating the law on September 12, 2011.


TriMet appealed the decision; the OERB upheld its original ruling on November 17, 2011 and ordered TriMet to revise its final offer to conform with the law.  TriMet submitted its revised final offer that, again, did not comply with the order of the OERB and the Union filed a Motion to Compel TriMet to comply.  With the ruling by the OERB still pending, the arbitrator rescheduled the interest arbitration to now commence on May 14, 2012.


The timeline below provides a factual and chronological timeline of events, showing what action has caused the delays.  In addition, the unfair labor practice (ULP) complaints filed by the ATU against TriMet for unilaterally changing the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and retaliation for filing such ULP, are separate issues and have no impact on the bargaining timeline, nor in delaying the interest arbitration.


TriMet/ATU Bargaining Timeline


  • Notice to open and commence bargaining for a new collective bargaining agreement sent to TriMet from the ATU on September 19, 2009.


  • First bargaining session was held on October 22, 2009.


  • Second bargaining session was held on November 20, 2009.


  • Five mediated bargaining sessions were held throughout June and July 2010.


  • Impasse was jointly declared by the ATU and TriMet on July 12, 2010.


  • TriMet and the ATU submitted their original final offers as required by state law on July 21, 2010.


  • ATU files a ULP with the OERB on August 11, 2010, asserting that TriMet violated the law by submitting an illegal final offer to arbitration.  This ULP automatically delayed the commencement of arbitration pursuant to State law.


  • A hearing before OERB was held on May 16, 2011 over the allegation that TriMet submitted an illegal final offer to arbitration.


  • As part of OERB’s order for hearing, the ATU and TriMet mutually selected an arbitrator to commence the contract interest arbitration on January 16, 2012.


  • On September 12, 2011 OERB ruled that TriMet violated ORS 243.672(1)(e) by submitting an illegal final offer to arbitration and ordered TriMet to cease and desist from continued violation of the law.


  • TriMet filed a request for “reconsideration” of OERB’s decision against TriMet on October 3, 2011.


  • The OERB affirmed and upheld its original order against TriMet, denying TriMet’s reconsideration request on November 17, 2011.


  • On November 15, 2011 and because the OERB had not issued its ruling on the issue of TriMet submitting an illegal final offer to arbitration, the ATU requested the interest arbitration be rescheduled to give the ATU adequate time to prepare based on the outcome of the ruling.  The arbitrator rescheduled the interest arbitration to commence on March 14, 2012.


  • TriMet submits its revised final offer pursuant to OERB’s ruling on December 15, 2011.


  • The ATU claims that TriMet’s revised final offer does not comply with OERB’s order and the ATU files a motion to force TriMet to produce a final offer that is in compliance with OERB’s order (Motion to Compel Compliance) on December 16, 2011.


  • The ATU and TriMet submit, per the OERB’s directive, written arguments regarding the Motion to Compel Compliance on January 11, 2012.


  • On January 26, 2012, the ATU notifies TriMet of its intent to seek postponement and rescheduling of the interest arbitration because of no final ruling by the OERB on the Motion to Compel Compliance, and the ATU not knowing what TriMet’s final offer would be going to arbitration.  The arbitrator hears both sides.


  • The arbitrator rules that if the OERB does not render their decision on the Motion to Compel Compliance by February 13, 2012, the interest arbitration will be rescheduled to commence May 14, 2012.


The interest arbitration over the contract dispute between TriMet and the ATU has been delayed because of TriMet’s failure to comply with the law, a ruling repeatedly upheld by the OERB.


For updated information on TriMet’s 2013 projected budget shortfall and the options available to eliminate it, go to



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