Today, ATU Local 757 is mourning former ATU 757 and ATU International President Ron Heintzman, who passed away on April 2nd, 2018 at age 65.
Ron joined TriMet in 1982 as a Transit Police Officer, and quickly became active in Local 757. Concerned about operator safety, he ran for and was elected to the position of Recording Secretary/Business Agent in 1988. Ron was reelected to five consecutive terms as President/Business Agent until accepting an appointment as International Vice President in 2002. In 2009, he became ATU International’s Executive Vice President, overseeing the International’s organizing and advocacy work across North America, and was later appointed President of ATU International in 2010, serving through the end of that year.
To merely recite the details of Ron’s biography would do a disservice to the incredible impact he has had within Local 757, Oregon’s labor movement, and ATU International. As we send our condolences to Ron’s family and friends, the leadership, members, and retirees of Local 757 want to share their reflections on Ron’s legacy:
Local 757 President Shirley Block:
“When I first met Ron, he was working as a Transit Police Officer. Honestly, Ron was the main reason I stayed on as a Fare Inspector when I first got hired on at TriMet: he’d always check to make sure we were okay, and never left a supervisor, inspector, or operator on the platform alone. And he’d always walk through the bullpens at the garages to talk to operators, listen to what they were seeing out in the community, and figure out what we were going to do about it.
As we got to know each other, Ron became my mentor, one of the first ones who encouraged me to step up and become a leader in this union. And he did it by asking me one question when things got tough: ‘Don’t just sit there and complain – what are you going to do about it?’ It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves all the time.”
Local 757 Financial Secretary-Treasurer Mary Longoria:
“Ron believed that transit work should be more than a job, it should be a secure career. And that’s exactly what he fought for: a living wage, good health benefits, and a fair pension to provide retirees the security they deserve. I remember that he was always proud that this was a job that paid enough that you could send your kid to college. And that’s exactly what I was able to do, thanks to Ron’s leadership.”
Executive Board Officer Ken Richins:
“After a contentious negotiation meeting with Laidlaw in the City of Corvallis, I remember asking Ron what motivated him to continue to seek the responsibility of Business Agent of this Union. He replied, ‘It just feels good to be in a position where you have opportunity to reach into workers lives and make a difference.’ There are folks in this union who will never have the chance to meet Ron but will be touched by the work he has done for workers. That’s a powerful legacy. Brother Heintzman, you reached into my life later that year and made a tremendous difference in our retirement. My wife and I are eternally grateful for your services to this Union.”
Retired Member Kelly Robinson:
“I met Ron when he was a policeman, and we’ve been best friends every since. And I don’t want to get into the details, but I can tell you that he saved my life at least once over the years. What you need to know about Ron is this: his passion was to help and serve people, and was especially focused on making sure retirees were taken care of. One of his legacies is the strong benefits retired members receive, and the security that brings.”
Executive Board Officer Kevin Kinoshita:
“My deepest condolences to the Heintzman family. Ron is a legend who will never be forgotten and appreciated for his dedication to ATU.”