Fact Check: New Employee Union Orientation Meetings

As of March 4, 2016, TriMet has stopped paying new union employees to attend a two-hour member orientation at ATU offices. The ATU is claiming that we are discouraging new employees to meet with union representatives. We set the record straight.

Claim

ATU claims that TriMet is not allowing union employees to attend the union orientation.

Fact

False. TriMet employees can go to union orientation sessions at the ATU offices on personal, unpaid time, but TriMet is not paying them for this time because we believe it violates the law to do so. As of March 4, 2016, TriMet ended a past practice that paid new employees to go to the ATU offices for a two-hour union membership orientation. We made the change after legal counsel advised us that paying new employees to attend a union orientation session was unlawful.

We believe using public money to benefit the ATU, which is a private entity, is an unfair labor practice under ORS 243.672(1)(b). That provision prohibits an employer from “assist[ing] in the formation, existence or administration of any employee organization.” We believe our position in this matter is consistent with Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) precedent. See City of Portland, 8 PECBR 8115 (1985); see also Carruthers v. Port of Astoria, 249 OR 329 (1968). In addition, ORS 243.670(2) states that a public employer may not “Use public funds to support actions to assist, promote or deter union organizing.”

Claim

The ATU claims that TriMet unilaterally made the change to discourage new union employees to attend orientation meetings at the ATU offices.

Fact

False. Members are welcome to go to the ATU union hall on their personal time, and the ATU may also make orientation presentations to new employees of reasonable duration during TriMet’s new employee orientation on its premises. Many labor contracts contain such a provision. This change also does not affect other lawful purposes for which TriMet employees go to ATU’s offices on paid time, such as contract negotiations or labor management meetings.

Additional Background

The most recent contract expires on Nov. 30, 2016. The ATU is strike prohibited due to legislation that they sought in Salem in 2007. If both parties are unable to reach a negotiated agreement, the parties are bound by binding interest arbitration — meaning an outside arbitrator selects only one proposal and there will not be a vote to ratify.

With the contract end approaching and no ability to strike, ATU leadership is instead claiming unfair labor practices and engaging in a public relations campaign aimed at pressuring TriMet into concessions that would once again threaten its financial stability.

TriMet remains committed to providing employees and retirees with fair benefits, while being fair to taxpayers and riders.

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