Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In wake of the contract ratification, some of us were wondering if our union representation was going to talk about the particulars and the fallout of the contract post ratification, guess not; as nothing has been discussed either through email, social media or word of mouth (outside of the Sunday informational). So let’s just discuss some of the things that were observed at the meeting and then the TA/contract; but first let me personally say to all those that were on the contract committee, you did the best job you could have hoped for considering the juggernaut you were up against.
Ask yourselves this, while attending the Sunday informational; what do you specifically remember about the meeting? Let me jog your memory, “30%” chance in winning in arbitration (which was mentioned 3 times while I attended) and probably not much else due to the fact that there was an attempt to “fluff” up things that were not a benefit to us “long-term.”
The talk concerning the increase in pay was a tipping point for those that were in attendance, 6% over the next couple of years or the $1 increase in pay really got the attention of the attendees. But no one probably paid close attention to the phrase “this is not the best deal (we could have got)”, well it was not even close and it was “smoke and mirrors.”
The question that could not be answered at the time was, “how much did the company win” meaning how much of the OPEB obligation did they keep. As some of you know that calling it the “non-funded obligation” was the right phrase while our representation decided to call it “un-funded obligation,” for those that are not familiar with the phrase OPEB it stands for “Other Post-employment Benefits”, defined as benefits that an employer offers to retirees as compensation for past services. OPEB includes post-employment healthcare benefits (such as medical, dental, vision, hearing), but may, under certain circumstances, also include other benefits such as life, disability and long term care insurance. The cost of these benefits is generally financed by an employer on a “pay-as-you-go” basis, rather than being advance-funded (which the company used exclusively over the years). In these couple of videos you will see just what they won and how it projects going forward: the first video is from the head of the company’s bargaining team – Video 1 here and the particulars on the TA’s impact– Video 2 here please listen and understand where we are.
So all in all the company got to keep $368 million from the OPEB obligation that was associated with the medical portion of our retirements along with future medical in the defined benefits package for those hired before December 1,2012 and complete abolishment of the medical for those hired (pre-65yrs (a stipend)and $0 post-65yrs of age) post ratification. During this struggle between the union and the company there were wide speculation of just how much was the union’s side of the OPEB obligation (liability) amounted to, the company’s stated amount was $850 million and the union stated the amount was closer to $350 million; who’s right? Well, if our side is right then the company just got a bump of about $18 million; which should blow your mind at this point (which matters little post ratification).
Please take the time to look the TA and the official contract (posted on the company web page) for yourselves and your work classifications to be sure of how this post-ratification will affect you, and it will.
First let’s start with what did we receive for giving up what we did and must say, it’s not much. The company chose to restart programs that they already had on the books such as EAP, Child and Elder Care and the Rec fund, all are great but just programs that they already had in place. Also the requirement of certain state laws such as Veteran’s day holiday, funeral leave and the highly controversial HOS policy again, these are just laws that were put in the contract. The most controversial issue that the Union chose not to fight was Road Reliefs pay, instead allowing a pittance allowance to be paid to members in direct violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (Click Here, And click here and how it applies to collective bargaining - Click Here) our side punted the ball and wait for outside solutions instead of standing up for the law.
Next up is the “safety” of Road Supervisors and Fare Inspectors which will include training in defusing situation and confrontations; outside of one assault on a Road Supervisor the “vast” majority of the assaults have been on Bus Operators. Bus Operator assaults continue to be ignored by both sides which leaves the operators vulnerable to continued attacks unchecked (5 assaults just last month alone).
Next up is the work environment for both Bus and Maintenance departments; first the Bus side just took a huge rollback in Operator Seniority, called “Block Scheduling.” This Permissive Bargaining item ("Permissive" or non-mandatory issues of bargaining are those which the parties may bargain over, but are not required. If the employer puts a permissive subject on the table, the union may engage in bargaining, but it is not obligated to do so. The union may agree to discuss the matter, engage in full bargaining and reach agreement on the issue, or decline to talk about it at all. That permissive issue then would be a dead issue. Either party may choose to keep it on the table, but they cannot force such an issue to impasse. Also, a strike over a permissive subject would be an unprotected activity, and unilateral implementation by the employer would be illegal.) has had a negative impact on the work environment; without any member involvement in its conception, is an anti-union act especially when you implement it and refuse to do any when its harmful to the membership, which is not leadership, it’s called “oversight” by an “overseer.” The only positive comment from our “overseer” is that “it saves the company money;” we don’t pay your salary for that.
Next up is the Maintenance department, according to the TA and contract “all lateral moves” come with a cost of being stuck in a discipline for 7 years. Both the TA and the contract is not specific concerning moving disciplines for those who want to make a move post ratification, the question is if you want to move to another disciple, do you have to wait 7 years (post ratification) or are you allowed to make a jump but then you have to be there for 7 years once you want to move; was it worth a $1 increase?
The biggest “elephant” in the room will always be healthcare and the union employee. In the TA and the contract you are now guaranteed 80/20 (although 90/10 is available, the cost is on you), although some will say that is a great deal, think about this point: since 07’ we have lost a combined 20% of medical. Was this a foreseeable thing, the answer is “yes.” In our last arbitration loss, the same issue came up about the OPEB obligation being paid out at 100%, is that sustainable “no” and we lost that decision. Some will continue to say if “we” only had “this guy” or “that guy” as the union representative we would have won, “no” we would not have. The trend in business was and is moving away from 100% medical or the defined benefits packages, just look at Detroit and how they dealt with it and you’ll see the point.
The hardest hit by this change has been our retirees who retired thinking that they would get what they were promised when they retired, well you didn’t under this TA and contract. In the TA and contract the “grandfathered” part was wrong and misstated, when it say “hired prior” to Feb 1992 you will have status quo in reality its “retired before” 1992; both phrases are vastly different and misleading. For those hired on or after Feb 1992 you are now guaranteed 80/20 (under 65), meaning you probably felt the 10% or the 20% reduction in the medical part of retirement and pension security, as bad as that is those who are 65 and older and have Medicare as their primary medical and the company being the secondary medical; the cut may even be worse while you are on a fixed income. Pre ratification the company paid the obligation of $40 million per year, post ratification they will now only pat $29.5 million with a savings of $10.5 million off the backs of the retired and the soon to be retired.
On a personal note, I would like to personally apologize to our retirees as we have failed as good stewards of the Union you guys have fought hard and sacrificed for and we promise that we will do better and be better in the future to reflect what this union has always stood for.
The winner: the Company, why $386 million reasons why. They must be commended for having a plan (20+ years ago), strategy (which everyone was on the same page) and execution. Their tactics and battle plan was a thing of beauty; we should learn from this experience because this is a union based strategy used against a union. So why blame them for the accolades they are receiving for this strong victory over the Union. Then again they didn’t experience a fight from the Union on any level.
Consolation prize: Currently employed Union members: Mini runners came out with stable insurance premium rates instead of paying a different rate with fewer hours. The restarting of programs they already had on the books for the Union, such as the EAP, Child Elder Care and the Rec funds, which is nice considering the company shaved off $10.5 million per year from the OPEB obligation, so what’s a couple of hundred thousand compared to millions? A signing bonus which avenged out to about $109 dollars for the holidays for current employees possibly out of that same reduction in the obligation.
Losers: the Retirees, current employees: the Retirees since 2007 have lost a combined 20% off their medical as a part of their pensions under the Defined Benefits retirement. If a current retiree is under 65 they just lost 10% on what they were promised when they retired, those over 65 are also taken a reduction in the company’s portion outside of Medicare. Left totally unprotected any reduction on a fixed income is painful, hoping to never get sick because your pension might be used up. Current employees, your work environments have now been hit hard and things may not get any better for both bus and mechanics (rail not included as of yet). For bus and mechanics a raise is nice but your retirement is now on that slippery slope.
Lastly, what needs to be said that the Sunday informational was a step in the right direction as far as getting members involved in the process of knowing what their contract will contain.
The caveat of this particular event was just smoke and mirrors due to the fact that if retirees knew they were being thrown under the proverbial bus, how would they react. If current members knew that their retirements were being attacked (successfully), how would we react? The fact of the matter is that saying that “WE” have a 30% chance in Arbitration, says that this was a “no choice” contract and take what you get. Would it have made a difference if it was stated that there was a 60% chance in Arbitration with all the information that was provided on Sunday, who knows? In Sunday’s meeting we briefly discussed what would happen in Arbitration, but did not discussed the ramification of going there since members were not privy to any info that went on behind closed doors since both parties decided to put a “gag order” in place, contrary to the Unions position on having an open negotiations (which did not last long). The lack of transparency limited the information that could have helped shape our collective understanding of “our” next step (ORS 243.746: Neither party may change the last best offer package unless pursuant to stipulation of the parties or as otherwise provided in this subsection.).
On a side note, the Monday Charter Meeting was a stroke of genius (whoever scheduled it to follow the Informational needs to be commended), because it was a total distraction of what could have been talked about concerning the fallout of the contract or what we needed to go forward into the future concerning negotiations with the company, instead we got distractions. What needs to be said about the meeting was it brought out the worst in what unions stand for in general: fractured solidarity, factions within and infighting over ridiculous things (all of which the Company plays on). To see sides’ being drawn over that was to say the least distasteful and disastrous to unions like stage 4 cancer and to let it continue to this day shows “us” what type of union solidarity we have. BUT “we” can change that, “we” can change how “we” operate as an entire union, “we” need to have a central theme on how “we” do things in the future. “We” need to encourage members from other contracts to communicate with each other and build a solid foundation for solidarity (the Company, C-Tran, PPS, First Transit or First Student, North Bonneville, Walla Walla, Bend, COIC, and Salem Chariots, or MV (Salem or Canby). “We” need to be truly transparent in communications to members and encourage conversation outside monthly meetings. Get rid of the status quo of how things have been done and encourage change through member involvement. We can do this, but it starts with us and for us, for the future.
Your Brother on the front lines