You may have heard about ATU’s request for TriMet to intervene in their dispute with First Transit, our paratransit contractors. ATU believes that a federal statute referred to as “13(c)” applies to the labor relationship between First Transit and their Multnomah County employees at TriMet’s ATP.
13(c) was enacted to prevent federal funds from being used to destroy the collective bargaining rights of these organized transit workers, and applies where there has been an acquisition by a public transit agency of a private transit company or a worsening of protected employee rights and benefits directly connected with the federal grant.
In the case of First Transit, there has been neither an acquisition of a transit entity nor a worsening of employment conditions caused by the receipt of federal money. Also, the Agreement expressly provides that it does not apply to paratransit programs.
TriMet has contracts with a number of contractors, many of whom have a union workforce, including First Transit. TriMet does not engage in the negotiations of the various individual businesses as they negotiate their contracts (nor are we typically asked to). Each contractor is responsible for their own negotiations and outcomes. While we expect our contractors to follow the law, there is a basic disagreement about whether the law requires arbitration in this instance. That is an issue that is, perhaps, better resolved in another forum.
My hope and my advice to each party, ATU and First Transit, is to sit down and negotiate a settlement, don’t put our customers at risk.