President Hunt’s comments at the ATU 757 Retired Member Chapter annual Christmas banquet

Good afternoon and Merry Christmas to all.  

It is great to see many of you again, and sad when you realize some who were here last year are no longer with us today.  But  Christmas is supposed to be a happy and joyish occasion, so let’s take a positive look at today and at the future.

 As most of you know, we have a real mess on our hands at TriMet.  Our contract expired in November 2009, and after failing to reach a negotiated settlement at the table, the contract dispute was moved to arbitration.  Local 757 was instrumental in pushing passage of the interest arbitration bill for transit workers in the Oregon Legislature several years ago, and we believe it was a good law then, and is a good law today.  It protects workers and the  public from disruption of public transportation services during a labor dispute.

The only thing we did not expect, was for TriMet to break the law.  Under the law, the collective bargaining contract, and the  longstanding practice with TriMet, the expiring contract and all of its provisions must remain in place, unchanged, until a new contract is put in place.  After more than 25 years past practice, and the recognition by both TriMet and the Union of the undisputed past practice, on September 27th of this year the new TriMet General Manager, Neil McFarlane, decided that he  interpreted the law differently than his predecessors had for the past 25 years, and that he could change the contract terms despite the fact that the dispute has not even been arbitrated.

Thus, as most of you know by now,  TriMet announced that it was going to start charging active and retired employees for their health insurance effective January 1, 2011, and that all future negotiated wage increases for active employees were being suspended.  TriMet intends to violate the law come January 1st.  They can call it “their interpretation of the law” or call it anything they want, but they are breaking the law, plain and simple. And besides breaking the law, what TriMet intends to do is just WRONG!  How can you do this to retirees on a fixed income we ask? TriMet claims that retirees aren’t going to be affected by the change.  That is pure BALONEY!  While TriMet retirees over the age of 65 won’t be charged for their health coverage under TriMet’s plan, some 300 TriMet retired members under the age of 65 will have to pay, and some, will have to pay a lot of money.  If you are a TriMet retiree under 65 years of age and cover your family under the Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, you will begin paying $235 a month on January 1st.  That’s from paying zero, to an out-of-pocket monthly cost of $235, or $2,820 a year.  Remember, most of these retirees are on fixed incomes. But it even gets worse!  For the roughly 23% of retirees under the age of 65 on TriMet disability, this will be devastating to them.  Again, depending on the insurance plan they are under, the new out-of-pocket costs to them on January 1st will eat up more than one third of their monthly disability pay.  Now that is not only wrong, I say it is CRIMINAL. Here is what TriMet needs to DO!  They need to rescind their plan to start charging members for insurance in violation of the collective bargaining agreement.  The Union is willing to go back to the table, while the arbitration process moves forward.  The parties can settle anytime, right up to the point where an arbitrator makes a ruling.  If the dispute has to be settled by the arbitrator, the Union will live with whatever the arbitrator decides.  So, if TriMet can convince the arbitrator that they have to balance their light rail budget on the backs of TriMet’s active and retired employees, then so be it.  That is the LAW, and that is what we agreed to!  But let the process work and the loud cry to TriMet is…..COMPLY WITH THE LAW and DON’T HURT OUR RETIRED MEMBERS! 

I, and the officers in front of you here today, commit that we will continue to fight, and to do everything possible to prevent you and your families from being hurt! Thank you again for inviting me, and Merry Christmas and Happy new Year to you and your families.

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3 Responses to President Hunt’s comments at the ATU 757 Retired Member Chapter annual Christmas banquet

  1. Sherry Knopski says:

    Whenare we going to see progress on the issue of the contract. If you hadn’t done away of our work action rights we would have this settled. But wait, you don’t have to deal with a work action now do you. You won’t be the bad person, blame it on the arbitraitor.

    • Dear Sherry,
      First let me say that I take great pride in being union president and doing all I can to maintain the wages and benefits that our union brothers and sisters have fought for over the last few decades.
      Binding arbitration has a long history in our organization. In fact, it’s been in existence since ATU was formed, meaning Locals are bound by the ATU Constitution which provides that we must request binding arbitration prior to receiving strike sanctions. We believe that during these economic times binding arbitration is the best option.
      You have the ability to continue the fight, putting pressure on TriMet through information pickets, rallies and other legal activities while still receiving a paycheck. I would remind you that we are following the law and it is TriMet that is breaking it. Although the wheels of justice turn slowly, we will prevail in court.
      I encourage you to sign up to be an activist where you can participate in the ongoing activities where you will see that I will be standing right next to our members. I also encourage you to come to the next union meeting and voice your concerns and/or your suggestions that might assist us in the fight.
      In your letter you noted your day care costs. Please check out the Forms page on the ATU 757 web page (http://www.atu757.org) and access the Child/Elder care forms. Please complete the paperwork and you should be reimbursed for some of your health care costs.
      In a final note, it is all of us collectively working together, not against one another, that will lead to success. I appreciate your input and hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
      Fraternally,
      Jon

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