Thursday, March 31, 2011


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Union Loses the Battle but Wins the War

The Union filed an unfair labor practice against TriMet over TriMet's unilateral implementation of the SIP customer complaint policy. The judge in that case is recommending that the complaint be dismissed. That is the battle that was lost. The judge's opinion, however, establishes that the Union won on all major points. The findings of the judge are important for you to know about because YOU are the eyes and ears of the Union and when the principles below are violated by TriMet, you need to sound the alert. So here are the important wins:
  1. TriMet claimed that union members had no history of rights with regard to how customer complaints were handled -- the judge said that was not true.
  2. TriMet claimed that it did not have to bargain over how it handled customer complaints -- the judge said TriMet must bargain.
  3. TriMet claimed it did not have to give employees rights with regard to how TriMet handled customer complaints -- the judge said TriMet must give the employees due process rights.
  4. TriMet claimed it could question employees about a customer complaint without a union officer present -- the judge said the employees have a right to request that a union officer be present. Thus, you should ask for an officer and not answer any questions about the complaint until an officer arrives.
  5. TriMet claims that people cannot grieve the issuance of a SIP -- the judge says the Union should grieve SIPs that might impact promotion, bonuses, and job security [this means every SIP since TriMet retains them to show future arbitrators in discipline cases] RECOMMENDATION: Regularly request a printout of all customer complaints in the TriMet data base that are attached to your name or employee number.
  6. TriMet is bound by the testimony of its witnesses, under oath, that many of the protections employees had under the 1996 customer complaint policy are incorporated into the "just cause" provisions of the labor agreement. The Union has a list of these protections that TriMet's witnesses testified were part of just cause.

What we learned, which was not clear from prior unilateral change cases, is that:
  1. If it walks, quacks and flaps like a duck, it still might not be considered a duck, therefore, everything must be in writing. What management says across the bargaining table is meaningless -- Rose Jordan, Sam Schwarz, Bruce Hanson, Sandra Guengerich and myself all testified, under oath, that the parties talked about the fact they were bargaining over the customer service policy. Peggy Hanson, however, testified that she thought that the parties were just "talking" and not bargaining. The judge found that because one of the parties at the bargaining table, Hanson, testified she didn't think she was bargaining, the parties weren't bargaining. In essence the judge ruled that a union must get a written confirmation from the employer that the parties were bargaining.
  2. A union must file an unfair labor practice unless the employer puts in writing that it is bargaining. It is not enough that the employer walks, quacks and flaps like a duck.
  3. If the employer has excuses for not being timely in following through on promises it makes in bargaining, a union should ignore those excuses and hold the employer to strict timelines. A union should move a matter to interest arbitration at the end of 90 days of bargaining, regardless of the employer having excuses and asking for delay.
  4. If a lower level manager makes incorrect statements about a TriMet policy or practice, repeatedly puts those statements in writings to the union and sends it to upper management and upper management fails to correct the station manager, upper management is not bound by that station manager's incorrect statements. Thus upper management can know a lower level manager is lying, do nothing to correct the lie and get a pass. Another way of saying this is that, if an employer’s operation is in chaos, it is the union’s responsibility to straighten it out, not management’s.

Documents subpoenaed during the course of this legal proceeding revealed that TriMet’s legal department was secretly involved in this process from the beginning. The Union interacts with 19 different employer groups. Of these, ONLY TriMet engages in such hostile, deceptive and dishonorable tactics calculated to harm the well-being of the people who actually provide the service.


Jonathan J. Hunt
President – Business Representative

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New York state lawmakers have approved a $132.5 billion budget that will cut more than $2 billion in healthcare and education spending, while granting millionaires a tax break. Despite a budget shortfall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo opposed extending a tax surcharge on New Yorkers with personal earnings of more than $200,000 year. The new budget has drawn criticism from advocates of increased education aid, who say the cuts will disproportionately impact students in low-income and middle-class districts. The budget was approved after a raucous day of protests from hundreds of activists who converged on the Capitol from across the state. Karen Scharff of the group Citizen Action of New York spoke out at the protest.
Karen Scharff: "We’re here today because the budget that the Governor has proposed, that the legislature is passing, is giving $5 billion away in tax cuts to millionaires, $5 billion that we need for our schools, for K-12 education, for early childhood education, for our universities, and for basic public services that low-income and middle-class New Yorkers need. But instead of funding those services, we’re throwing $5 billion out the window in a tax cut for millionaires, who don’t need it and haven’t asked for it. It’s not only irrational, but it’s immoral. This immoral budget cannot stand."


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ULP on SIP Conclusion:

                While we found that the District had an obligation to bargain over some of the changes related to the implementation of the SIP, ATU failed to make a timely demand to bargain or to diligently pursue bargaining over those changes. As a result, the District did not make a unilateral change in violation of ORS 243.672(1) (e). In addition, since the District then had no obligation to bargain, it also did not bargain in bad faith under ORS 243.672(1) (e). Finally, since ATU failed to make a timely bargaining demand under ORS 243.698(3), the District did not fail to comply with the fargaining or interest arbitration provisions of ORS 243.698 in violation of ORS 243.672(1) (f). Therefore, we will dismiss the complaint.
We need to know why did ATU fail to make a timely demand to bargain. Who failed us here? Is this going to be the same outcome with our ULP about our contract?


Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) will sign the bill curbing union rights into law Friday afternoon.
Under Ohio law, the law goes into effect 90 days after being signed.
During that 90 days, Ohio unions plan to file language for a ballot referendum repealing the law with the Ohio Secretary of State and will try to collect the required 231,000 signatures from at least half of Ohio's 88 counties.
If they succeed, the law would not take effect, pending a statewide referendum on the November ballot.
It would undoubtedly be a huge political campaign, the main battlefront for the issue.
Wisconsin: Law put on hold
AP reports: “A Wisconsin judge ruled Thursday the state's divisive new collective bargaining law had not taken effect, and officials in Republican Gov. Scott Walker's administration say he plans to comply with the ruling and to halt preparations to begin deducting money from public workers' paychecks. … Two Walker administration officials who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the governor hadn't publicly announced his plans said he would announce later Thursday that he would comply with [the judge’s] ruling.”


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