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Sunset Empire transit drivers, mechanics unionize

Friday, October 5, 2018

Drivers and mechanics for the local transit agency have formed a union.

Sunset Empire Transportation District workers were certified by the Oregon Employment Relations Board through a card check process, which showed 65 percent of eligible workers had signed authorization cards to join Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757. All 19 Sunset Empire drivers and mechanics will now be represented.

“ATU Local 757 represents about 5,500 members – active and retired – across Oregon and Southern Washington, almost exclusively transit workers,” said Andrew Riley, communications manager for the local.

The largest workplace represented is TriMet in Portland, but other unionized transit agencies represented are in Walla Walla, Wash., Salem, Medford and Columbia and Tillamook counties.

Bill Ray, a driver for Sunset Empire since 1999, serves as a shop steward. “This is not something done as a vendetta to get back at anybody,” Ray said. “We just want to get organized and be appreciated for what we do. It’s a tough job and not everyone can do this job.”

Sunset Empire was one of the few nonunion districts along the coast and Portland metro area, he said.

“We were missing out on a lot of benefits union members have, better pensions, better salaries and better working conditions,” Ray said. “It was just time to make a move.”

Contract negotiations are expected to begin in November, according to Jeff Hazen, Sunset Empire’s executive director.

Hazen has been a union member and has worked on the management side of unionized employees before.

“We’ve got great employees,” Hazen said when asked if he foresees any issues. “Obviously, there are financial matters to consider, as we only have so many dollars in the coffer. … I’m not overly concerned.”

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