Judge rules bargaining sessions not subject to Public Meetings Law

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Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Leslie Roberts today ruled that bargaining sessions between TriMet and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) are not subject to the Oregon Public Meetings Law. This means that the bargaining sessions are not open to the public as a matter of right, but the parties may agree to invite other attendees.

TriMet has stated its desire to have the news media attend and report on the sessions as part of a comprehensive media negotiations ground rule. The ATU and TriMet have not reached agreement on this issue.

“Having the news media report on the sessions will be a first for us, and will provide the transparency we desire in negotiating a new contract that is fair to our employees, our riders and taxpayers,” said TriMet Executive Director of Labor Relations and Human Resources Randy Stedman.

Background

After 2.5 years, the 2009-2012 contract was settled through interest arbitration 4-1/2 months before it expired on Nov. 30, 2012. For the subsequent contract, the ATU sent notice in September demanding to bargain, with three sessions agreed to in November and December 2012.

However, the ATU did not show up for any of the sessions after demanding that the sessions be treated as Public Meetings. The ruling today affirms that the Oregon Public Meetings Law does not apply to these negotiation sessions.

TriMet also filed an Unfair Labor Practice Complaint with the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) on January 2 to require the ATU to come to the bargaining table and begin bargaining in good faith. The Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaint also asked ERB to establish November 30 as the 150-day trigger for negotiations as required by state statute. ERB has not ruled on this ULP.

TriMet’s contract proposal all other information related to contract negotiations is posted on the agency’s website: trimet.org/newcontract.

TriMet’s proposal

The agency’s top issue for the next contract is to reduce the costs of one of the most generous health care benefits in the country. The current contract resulted in minimal changes to health care benefits, but the costs remain unsustainable and keep the agency at risk to continue service cuts and fare increases to balance its budget. TriMet’s proposal related to health care calls for moving the current preferred provider plan from a 90/10 share to an 80/20 plan that includes employees paying six percent of the cost of the service provided. This change would match what TriMet administrative employees pay for the preferred provider plan.