Text of President’s First Transit Strike Press Conference Speech
First Transit Strike Press Conference Speech
By Jonathan Hunt, President
Thank you for coming out today and showing your support. My name is Jonathan Hunt and I am the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757. We represent the dedicated workers who transport the elderly and disabled in Multnomah and Washington counties.
Why are we on strike? We are on strike because multi-national First Transit, Inc. receives over 5% increases from TriMet each year of their five year contract, and only wants to give us 2% a year increases on wages and benefits.
Why are we on strike? We are tired of TriMet paying millions of dollars annually to a foreign company that sucks profits out of our community and gives nothing back!
Why are we on strike? We are on strike because First Transit refused to arbitrate the contract dispute, and told us to strike if we didn’t accept what they offered.
Why are we on strike? We are on strike because TriMet had the authority to order First Transit to arbitrate the contract dispute but TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane chose not to because he believes employees should strike rather than settle contract disputes through arbitration.
Why are we on strike? We are on strike because we care about our elderly and disabled citizens who for many, public transit is the only means of transportation they have to get to the doctor, to the pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions, or to the store to buy their groceries.
Why are we on strike? We are on strike because rather than reduce the profits made by private multi-national companies that suck profits out of our community like First Transit, TriMet would rather cut service and increase bus fares for our most vulnerable citizens.
Why are we on strike? We are on strike because we are the only ones willing to fight for citizens in our community who depend on the vital services we provide every day of the year.
Why are we on strike? We are on strike because we are tired of shouldering the blame for decisions made by inept leaders at First Transit and at TriMet.
Why are we on strike? We are on strike because it is time for leadership change at TriMet. It is time to bring responsible management back to the table and to work for the benefit of the riding community we serve. IT IS TIME FOR LEADERSHIP CHANGE AT TRIMET!
The last thing we wanted to do today is to strike. First Transit and their partner TriMet has forced us to take this action. While First Transit is making huge profits off taxpayers’ dollars, very little of those dollars remain in our community.
We are the ones who live here. We are the ones who pay taxes. The elderly and disabled citizens we transport every day, they are the reason we do what we do! They depend on us. They depend on us to get them to their doctor appointments on time. They depend on us to get them to their kidney dialysis treatments. They depend on us to get them to the grocery store. In most cases we are their only means of transportation.
WE TAKE THIS RESPONSIBILITY VERY SERIOUSLY.
We know our strike has caused harm to the passengers we serve. We wish TriMet and First Transit had not forced us into a strike. We wish First Transit had agreed to arbitrate the dispute like all other transit workers in Oregon. We wish TriMet Leadership had stepped up to the plate and required First Transit to arbitrate the contract dispute. But, as we’ve seen time after time after time, TriMet leadership made a POOR decision.
This is a letter that the Union office received regarding this situation from State Senator Betsy Johnson and State Representative Brad Witt who have elderly and disabled constituents who depend on TriMet service.
Without taking any side of this dispute, these elected leaders have asked all parties involved to end the strike now, and return to the bargaining table to settle the dispute.
This is a letter from former Portland City Councilman Charlie Hales who has long been a strong and staunch advocate of public transportation in this region.
After serious discussion and debate among our negotiating teams from both First Transit regional properties, and based on the plea from our current and former elected leaders, the Union is ending the strike and its members will return to work tomorrow at their regular scheduled times. We do not wish to cause any more hardship to our passengers, and regardless of what commitment First Transit and TriMet give, we are ending the strike for the benefit of the community we serve.
While we are willing to end the strike for now, we are committed to settling this dispute whether it be at the bargaining table or through arbitration.
WE CARE FOR THE CITIZENS WE SERVE!
But let there be no mistake. IF IT BECOMES NECESSARY AGAIN TO FORCE TRIMET AND FIRST TRANSIT TO BARGAIN FAIRLY, OPENLY AND HONESTLY, THEN WE WILL BE BACK.
Thank you for coming and showing support for us today.
Jonathan Hunt President - Business Representative Amalgamated Transit Union Division 757 Portland, Oregon