President Hunt’s statement to the TriMet Board of Directors January 25th, 2012

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the TriMet Board. My name is Jonathan Hunt and I am the President of the Union representing TriMet employees, ATU 757.

TriMet claims it is facing a 2013 budget shortfall of 12 to 17 million dollars. Management talks about this all the time and is continually asking the public for help in determining how to cut costs. At the same time, TriMet has told the elderly and disabled community to expect future fare increases. They are scared because most of them are on fixed incomes. And more importantly, fare increases for this population of users is not necessary. What we see, is that TriMet’s ”oh we are so broke” campaign is merely a ruse to point fingers at TriMet union workers who TriMet claims are over paid.

What TriMet is keeping from the public is the fact that they could cut their projected budget shortfall by more than half, and do it today!

TriMet could save over 7 million dollars a year, according to an independent auditor’s report, by dumping the private contractors and performing the service in-house.

Private contractors are earning record high profits to provide paratransit services throughout TriMet’s tri-county area of operation. These contractors are getting fat at the taxpayers’ expense, and TriMet stands by and lets them get away with it. An independent audit was completed on February 20, 2008, and based on 2004/05 fiscal year figures, estimated an immediate, annual savings of nearly 4 million dollars if TriMet did away with contractors and operated the service directly.

A brief history for those Board members unfamiliar. For many years, the Union had argued with TriMet about how much it spent on private contractors to operate elderly and disabled transportation services. TriMet claimed it was cheaper to contract out for service, while the Union maintained it was more costly to provide the service through contractors, than it would be if TriMet operated the service itself.

The Union was successful in negotiating a provision into their 1998 collective bargaining agreement with TriMet, to jointly select an outside audit firm to conduct a thorough analysis of the cost to continue to subcontract paratransit services versus the cost to perform the service in-house. The parties further agreed that the Union and TriMet would jointly instruct and receive information from the audit firm selected to perform the analysis.

To condense the story at this point, I will just say that after several years; a grievance, unfair labor practice complaint and arbitration resulted in TriMet being ordered to move forward with the audit.

On February 20, 2008, the firm of Lauka & Associates, certified public accountants, issued its audit report and findings. Obviously, TriMet management did not like what the audit revealed. Based on 2004/05 fiscal year budget numbers, the most recent full year budget figures provided by TriMet at the time, the audit revealed that TriMet would save nearly 7 million taxpayer dollars annually, if they brought paratransit service in-house.

One can confirm the current estimated savings based on current TriMet budget numbers, by applying the same contract increases given by TriMet to contractors over the last six years.

TriMet cannot dispute the Lauka & Associates report in 2008 since it was based on information they, TriMet provided. Should TriMet dispute the current projected savings of over 7 million dollars, the solution is easy. Provide the audit firm with updated budget information, and since the audit model has already been created, current savings will be easy to calculate and give taxpayers a clear and true picture as to what TriMet could save by bringing paratransit services in-house.

And let’s look at another reason for TriMet to bring its paratransit operations in-house. In a Straight Talk show interview recently, TriMet General Manager McFarlane said that strikes don’t work for anyone. Yet, McFarlane has refused to force his paratransit contractors to arbitrate their current contract disputes as required by federal law, and strikes in over two thirds of TriMet’s service area could happen any day now. If McFarlane is going to “talk the talk” then he needs to “walk the walk”. Strikes would not be an option if paratransit services were performed in-house.

Another area where TriMet could immediately save taxpayers around 5 million dollars is to revert back to 2006 numbers of management positions at TriMet. It is estimated that new non-union positions at TriMet have grown by more than 128 since 2006, while the number of unionized jobs they supervise has remained fairly constant during the same period.

By bringing TriMet paratransit services in-house, and cutting the number of non-union positions at TriMet to 2006 levels, those two things alone would together save nearly 12 million taxpayer dollars and nearly erase TriMet’s entire 2013 projected budget shortfall. We are calling on the TriMet Board of Directors to take the lead and use the opportunities available to you to erase TriMet’s projected 2013 budget shortfall.

There is no need to scare the public any longer.

There is no need to increase rider fares.

Do the right thing and do it now!

The savings to taxpayers today, seven years later, will reach more than 7 million dollars. That’s right, more than 7 million taxpayer dollars could be saved right now by TriMet bringing the paratransit operation in-house. That is almost two-thirds of the 2013 budget shortfall is claiming.

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Fresh and Objective Thinking at TriMet…Are You Serious?

In a letter to the Union from the labor relations director recently hired by TriMet, he wrote: “Because the General Manager must keep in mind the interests of all TriMet employees, it is inappropriate that he serve as the president of the Unions’ counterparty or primary interface. There will be times when the interests of union and non-union employees are at odds.” Now comes the best! “In those situations, the General Manager must bring objective and fresh thinking to the dispute, unclouded by having advocated for one side or the other.”

Are we talking about TriMet here? First, if the General Manager of TriMet believes that he doesn’t have to work with his counterpart in the Union, no problem. The Union will simply work around and above him so he can be freed up to concentrate on other areas that require his objective and fresh thinking. And what about this notion of objective and fresh thinking?

The only objective and fresh thinking coming out of TriMet in the past year and a half has resulted in labor-management relations between TriMet and the Union hitting its lowest point ever; a protracted contract dispute that resulted in numerous unfair labor practice lawsuits filed against TriMet for violation of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and retaliation against the Union for filing such complaints; TriMet losing its case before the Oregon Employment Relations Board for trying to add on to the laundry list of takeaways from members in its contract offer submitted for arbitration; and if TriMet is found guilty in the contract breach and retaliation charge, that poor management decision could wind up costing taxpayers over 20 million dollars.

These certainly are not accomplishments I would brag about where objective and fresh thinking prevailed. To the contrary. But, perhaps the following is what was meant when the new labor relations director wrote about the general manager’s decisions being unclouded by having advocated for one side or the other.

The recent TriMet influenced editorial in the “Union friendly” The Oregonian calls for many changes, but omits calling for the most important one. The editorial wants the Oregon legislature to repeal the interest arbitration law which includes transit workers. The thought apparently is that transit workers should strike rather then preserve the vital service of public transportation in the state.

The editorial also encouraged changing the make-up of the Governor appointed TriMet Board of Directors. It mentioned the terms of two board positions up for reappointment and suggested the Governor not reappoint either one. The real motive is that TriMet does not want the labor representative on the TriMet Board, Lynn Lehrbach, to be reappointed.

The editorial called for changes to the composition of the Oregon Employment Relations Board, implying that the Board was not employer-friendly enough and as a result, somewhat responsible for TriMet’s problems. And of course, The Oregonian editorial advocates for the change in Union leadership because they are being unreasonable in protecting the wages, benefits and job security of their members. The obvious omission in the editorial was to call for top management at TriMet to be replaced for making irresponsible decisions costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars.

Strike-prohibited law

The law prohibiting transit workers from striking in Oregon was passed in 2007. The legislation parallels the more than one hundred year old position of the Amalgamated Transit Union to settle contract disputes by arbitration. The law was also necessary to prevent the unnecessary interruption of public transportation because of a contract dispute, which is the only means of transportation for many of our citizens.

TriMet blames its current contract dispute with the Union on the law. The law isn’t to blame! TriMet management made poor decisions and violated the law. That is why the dispute has drug on for so many years. Now, in keeping with its newly pledged commitment to advocate for its Union employees, TriMet is contacting key legislators to see if there is any support for repealing the interest arbitration law in the upcoming special session of the Oregon Legislature to begin next month.

TriMet believes that without transit workers covered by the strike-prohibited statute, they could have already forced their significant wage and benefit cuts on active and retired employees, forcing employees to strike; knowing that the prospect of employees striking over the need to support their families would be in TriMet’s favor. That’s the real reason for TriMet’s opposition to the arbitration law.

TriMet Board of Directors

Terms for two seats on the TriMet Board are ending or have ended. The Union has learned that the term of the labor representative member on the board, Lynn Lehrbach, is ending in February and that the Governor does not intend to reappointment him. Instead, we understand the Governor’s office intends on filling the labor spot on the board with a small business owner.

There has always been a labor representative position on the TriMet board, a commitment made by Governor Kitzhaber during his first term as Oregon’s governor. Lynn Lehrbach has been the only real “voice” for labor in comparison to previous representatives serving in that capacity. At a TriMet Board meeting last year during a contentious debate about the labor dispute, the TriMet Board Chair refused to let Lehrbach speak in support of TriMet’s unionized workers.

Knowing that TriMet doesn’t want the labor position on the Board to continue, we suspect that this may be the result of some political maneuvering going on in the Governor’s office. Tom Walsh, former TriMet General Manager is a paid consultant to TriMet and his wife is the current Chief of Staff for the Governor. We hope Kitzhaber is not serious about dumping the labor spot on the TriMet Board because of political influencing, for that would seriously affect the relationship this Union has with the Governor’s office.

 

 

Oregon Employment Relations Board

It seems incomprehensible that The Oregonian editorial called on changes to Board members at the Oregon Employment Relations Board (OERB), somehow tying TriMet’s current contract woes to the Board’s composition.

If TriMet had not violated the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and state law, the dispute would not have even landed before OERB. The fact that it did, and because of delays resulting from TriMet’s actions, can hardly be used as condemnation of the OERB. But, what else would we expect from SUCH a “pro-labor” newspaper?

So, if TriMet’s new labor relations director’s characterization means that TriMet has become somewhat kinder and gentler, with objective and fresh thinking that will benefit its unionized employees, then we need to rewind the film on this production because we must be watching the wrong show!

 

 

 

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Join us at the next Information Picket – January 25th

It has been some time since ATU 757 has held a picket before the Tri Met Board meeting but this is so important that we feel we have no choice but to do it again. Please come join us at this informational picket January 25th at 8:00 am in front of the Portland building. Please feel free to stay for the meeting (9:00am) and give your opinion to the Trimet board.

TriMet has no budget crisis and they need to manage taxpayer dollars better. There is no need for slick expensive brochures that attack 87% of their employees ,websites or meetings with the public. TriMet should sit down and work with ATU 757. Please go to http://www.ATU757.org to see the Union’s recommendations for TriMet.

This information along with the attached flier is meant for wide distribution and for all politicians and government board members. Please print and distribute the flier to all tax payers and those who are fed up with TriMet’s mismanagement of funds, sending millions of dollars overseas, unnecessary rate hikes and service cuts.

We have been asking for help from all politicians for a long time with regards to TriMet’s illegal actions toward our members. Please investigate our recommendations and help us make TriMet a more efficient agency.

http://www.atu757.org/events/InformPicket012512.pdf

 

 

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Why is there a budget shortfall at TriMet?

Logon to http://www.trimet.org/choices/why-is-there-a-budget-shortfall
Go to the TriMet website and see how they are blaming unionized employees for most all of their financial problems. Then click on “Tell us what you think” and give your thoughts as to what the problems are and how to fix them. Here are some of our suggestions:

Problem: Leadership, bad decision-making
Fix: Total shakeup and change in top management

Problem: Private paratransit contractors too expensive
Fix: Bring in-house and immediately save over 7 million dollars

Problem: Management Positions
Fix: Reduce top heavy management positions to 2006 levels, save 5 million dollars

Problem: Appointed Board of Directors, rubber stamp management actions
Fix: Elected Board accountable to the taxpayers

These are just a few problems and fixes we came up with in a few minutes. There are many more. Make sure you go to TriMet’s website and let them know how you feel.


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Fix the Budget Shortfall now, TriMet, no more Lip Service

TriMet claims it is facing a 2013 budget shortfall to the tune of 12 to 17 million dollars. They blame it on many things, including their unionized workforce. One thing TriMet and General Manager McFarlane don’t tell the public, is that they could erase nearly two-thirds of that shortfall, right now, on their own.

 How?  By TriMet ending expensive private contracts and operating elderly and disabled transportation (paratransit) services in-house.  In their 1998 collective bargaining agreement, TriMet and the Union agreed to jointly select an outside audit firm to conduct a thorough analysis of the cost to continue to subcontract paratransit services versus the cost to perform the service in-house. The parties further agreed that the Union and TriMet will jointly instruct and receive information from the audit firm selected to perform the analysis.

 After years of litigation over TriMet’s refusal to participate in the audit, an independent audit completed on February 20, 2008 by Lauka & Associates, certified public accountants, estimated an immediate, annual savings of over 3.6 million dollars if TriMet did away with contractors and operated the service directly. This amount of savings was based on the 2004/05 fiscal budget year. For a pdf of the independent audit go to http://www.atu757.org/forms/LaukaLiftAuditReport.pdf

 Current estimated savings, calculated by applying the same annual contract increases given by TriMet to private paratransit contractors over the last six years, are estimated to be over 7 million dollars a year if elderly and disabled transportation services were operated in-house today by TriMet.  TriMet can’t dispute the 2008 audit findings since it was based on information they, TriMet provided.  Since the audit model has already been created, current projected savings can be easily calculated by supplying the new budget figures.

 “Even if they only saved taxpayers a million dollars, TriMet needs to bring the service in-house now,” said Jonathan Hunt, President of Amalgamated Transit Union local 757. “But, here they have the opportunity to save taxpayers over 7 million dollars, it is a no-brainer,” claims Hunt.

 While they cannot dispute the numbers, Hunt believes TriMet will argue they can’t bring the service in-house now because of private provider contracts in place. “That is pure hogwash” says Hunt, “They can end those contracts anytime they want, they have done it before in the past!”

 Another reason for TriMet to bring its paratransit operations in-house, is the imminent strikes pending with its private paratransit contractors in Multnomah and Washington Counties. By bringing the paratransit service operation in-house, employees would be prohibited from striking, the same as other TriMet employees.

 TriMet recently produced a flyer and directed First Transit employees to hand them out to customers on their bus. In the flyer, TriMet warns of future Lift fare increases, blaming some of the increases on union contracts.  “Those increases would not be necessary if TriMet cut out the middle man,” said Hunt.  “In fact, they would be able to lower Lift fares,” Hunt claimed.

 Hunt says it is time for TriMet to stop paying “lip service” about cutting costs and saving taxpayer money.  It is time to bring the elderly and disabled transportation service in-house, and keep the money in our community, rather than send it to Scotland where First Transit is based. Bringing the service in-house now would make up nearly two thirds of the budget shortfall TriMet claims it is currently facing. It is time to tell the contractor, the jig is up!

 For more information, go to www.atu757.org and follow us on Facebook at AmagamatedTransitPdx.

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ATU 757 Complainant, v. TriMet, Respondent Unfair Labor Practice Case No. UP-016-11

As ATU had predicted, we won the ULP claiming that TriMet violated ORS 243.672 (1)(e) by including new issues in its final offer. See the order for more information.

Please keep in mind that we are still waiting for the 2nd ULP decision, which will determine the results of the health insurance implementation and wage freezes.

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Hours of Service Policy Correspondence

President Jonathan Hunt’s letter in response to Shelly Lomax, TriMet Executive Director of Operations August 23 letter regarding Hourse of Service.

August 26, 2011

Shelly Lomax, Executive Director of Operations

TriMet

4012 SW 17th Avenue

Portland, OR 97202

Re: Hours of Service

Dear Shelly,

I received your letter dated August 23, 2011, along with the August 16, 2011 letter from John Johnson, Rail Safety, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to Harry Saporta, TriMet Safety and Secrity Director.

After careful review, it is my finding that the negotiated Hours of Service Policy between TriMet and the Union is in compliance with Oregon Law and Oregon Administrative Rulses. We are not aware of any changes in the law or administrative rules since the policy was originally negotiated, submitted to and approved by ODOT.

Quite frankly, it appears that the deficiencies noted in the August 16, 2011 ODOT letter are more directed toward TriMet’s reporting performance, rather than policy non-compliance issues with applicable Oregon Law and Oregon Administrative Rules.

As you are well aware, any change affecting the parties’ Working and Wage Agreement needs to be negotiated and voted on by the membership. You are also aware that ODOT is not signatory to the Working and Wage Agreement between the parties.

If either TriMet or ODOT is inferring or alleging that the Hours of Service policy, or any provision of the collective bargaining agreement is in violation of Oregon law, then I direct you to Article I, Section I, Paragraph 2 of the Working and Wage Agreement. This section and paragraph reads in part…”If any term or provision of the Working Agreemenrt or the application thereof to any person or circumstance shall to any extent be determined by final judgment or ruling of a court or state administrative body to be illegal, invalid or unenforceable for any reason whatsoever, the remainder of the Working Agreement…”

The Union takes very seriously, any attempt by a third party to intervene in the application and administration of the Working and Wage Agreement in effect between the parties. Any such unilateral intervention would have to meet the requirements of Article I, Section I, Paragraph 2 of the Agreement and be subject to appeal.

I hope this clearly outlines the Union’s position regarding this matter.

Sincerely,

Jonathan J. Hunt

President – Business Representative

cc: Neil McFarlane, GM, TriMet

ATU 757 Executive Board

File

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