Sunday, June 3, 2018

VP Candidate Jon Hunt Shares Views

Deke's Note: Current ATU 757 Vice President Jon Hunt responds to my questions of the candidates for top office in our local.

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Jon Hunt
ATU 757 Vice President
1) Who are you, and which office are you campaigning for? What makes you our best choice? Why do you want to serve in this capacity?
My name is Jon Hunt, your current Vice President, Assistant Business Agent. The role of the Vice President is to assist the President and to act as the President in their absence.

I have been serving the members for 23 years, 16 of which as a full time officer. I’m a proud 2nd generation ATU 757 member. I believe in the Labor Movement. Being able to do this job gives me the ability to make a positive difference. I enjoy it greatly.

My knowledge and experiences provides a solid foundation at a time when we all need to unite and support each other. I am inspired for our future and I see an opportunity to create connections with you in new ways.

I humbly ask for your vote and I ask you to also vote for Shirley and Mary. New Leaders every 3 years is not going to build a strong union. You have leaders who are listening to you and want to make this Union better.

Over the last three years, we have had a lot of successes and created a lot of good changes to build our Union and take it to the next level. Here is a quick look at some of our most impactful achievements.

Settled 13 contracts, the majority of them had the highest wage increases ever received!
We have built good relationships with a lot of our employers, TriMet is a work in progress and we have several labor management meeting scheduled — Our focus is to make sure you have a seat at the table.

Reduced Grievances and Arbitrations
With the Creation of our Labor Relations position, we have been successful in reducing many of our grievances and arbitrations.

Eliminated our Lobbyist
We have change how we endorse and give money to politicians through the work of our Public Policy position that works with our community partners and legislators. Accountability first!

Hired a Communications Coordinator who we rely on to take care of our website, expand our Facebook, and develop new ways to connect with our members, ie. Created the new electronic newsletter.

We are all on the same team working for the same goals;  I see good collaboration and team work paying off and the foundation laid to continue these successes at all our properties.

2) What do you believe to be the membership’s main concerns moving forward through 2020? How would you work toward improving these areas?
From one property to the next we have different levels of safety issues going on, but across the board, safety issues seem to all come down to a lack of care for people over profit.

It’s quite alarming to see the extent of undue trauma, stress and harm effecting our riders and drivers here in the Portland Region, and across the State. In addition, many of our members are feeling pressured to compromise personal health and safety for the schedule.

Wages and Benefits — We should all expect fair wages and health benefits in our job. Healthcare benefits should be affordable, at minimum, and something we can use. For some of our members, this is not the case.

We are leading the way for UNITY right now over wages and benefits with 4 of our Employer groups. They are not making a living wage and they are not receiving affordable health insurance.

Employers need to understand that we will not allow them to put profit before people.

SIP’s — The horror stories I am hearing make it clear that the SIP’s program at TriMet is not a program that they are using to build moral; instead it has destroyed it. We will be working with everyone to develop a solution that will be supportive not punitive. The game of gotcha needs to stop!

Here are some improvements to the contract:

Article 1, Section 19, New Par. 12 (RE ATU # A.4):
Service Improvement Program. Any Service Improvement Program (SIP) administered by the District shall contain at least the following terms and conditions:
a. The identified employee and his/her Union Representative shall be provided a written copy of the complaint (redacted to protect the identity of the complainant) not less than three business (3) days prior to an intent to discipline meeting that will address the same.
a.b. All phone call complaints in and out of Customer Service with a complainant shall be recorded. The recordings (redacted to protect the identity of the complainant) shall be provided to the identified employee and his/her Union Representative prior to the commencement of the intent meeting.
c. TriMet shall provide to each Executive Board Officer a monthly report of SIPs received within that Executive Board Officer’s jurisdiction.

This is a good start to us getting advance notice and written documentation for our member, however there is still a lot to be done. I looking forward to round discussions on this topic.

Regions 1, 2 and 3

First Transit, a TriMet sub contractor for our Lift drivers, has repeatedly violated the meal and rest break law and paid some hefty fines, but it hasn’t seemed to slowed them down. Our members do not have affordable health insurance or a living wage. This group has had enough and we are taking action together to put a stop to these issue.

These actions get the employers attention and are a very visual display of unity. Witnessing our members come together is powerful!

3) Assaults are on the rise every year. Do you believe operator barriers are the answer? What are the pros and cons of the barriers? What else could be done to stop this escalating problem?
While the union gained some financial relief for assaulted members in our most recent contract with TriMet,  (i.e.: you will receive pay for the remainder of your shift should you be assaulted) we still have a lot of work to do.

I do not believe barriers are the “only" answer.

The Pros: Blocks or slows down the attacker.
The Cons:   You could get trapped inside and all designs still allow liquid to be poured on you.

I would like to see a new design that takes into account both the safety and the ergonomics for our operators. It’s not about slapping something up to make it appear safe; it’s about real solutions that make the driver truly safe by providing ergonomics with security.

Will we choose to react out of fear and create a military force in our community? Or can we create a more kind, open and free society? I believe the most effective, direct and positive approach on the assault issue is to bring the Rider Advocates back to the system again.

I addressed the TriMet Board a few months ago on the assault issue. I believe badges and guns are not going to fix our problem. I asked the Board to take another look at our Rider Advocate program

(Stated in the in an article posted Aug 26, 2009)

“The advocates' mission has been to provide a "visible, recognizable and physical presence" on bus and MAX lines, their contract says.”

"They're like our guardian angels on the street. It's a real loss for our community," said Paige Coleman, the coalition's director. She said she fears their absence could lead to more disruptive passengers and violence.

I would also like to see TriMet Fund Road and Rail Supervisors and Fair Inspectors. This kind of backup support goes a long way in stopping a situation before it can start. They improved the riders experiences!

There is no single answer, we are just touching the tip of the iceberg. As we connect and share our experiences and stories, we will gain new ideas and find the best answers to the challenges we are facing.

4) Since we cannot strike, how can we ensure that our union membership concerns will be taken seriously by management? Do you have any creative strategies to ensure constructive dialog and positive actions?
Since we cannot strike how can we ensure that our memberships concerns will be taken seriously by management?

"At the end of the day, it comes down to SOLIDARITY!"

Are all managers like TriMet? As your Vice President, I interact with management almost daily. I would like to acknowledge that we have good collaborative relationships with several different locations. We are able to resolve issues before they become grievances. Some of the managers we work with have really demonstrated that they know and appreciate your value.

As an example, we have been successful in creating healthcare committees at C-TRAN, our Vancouver, WA property and LTD our Eugene, OR property, composed of union members and officers, healthcare providers and managers; all at the table to address healthcare plans — being part of the process instead of on the sidelines.

Both of these groups have kept the cost of insurance down while maintaining benefits. This same approach can be used to address any issue. The committee members are equal and not subordinates. This is the only way to have a true joint committee that is equal in decision making; working together to create positive change. I would like to model this success with all our properties.

Right to Strike back for effected Public Transit Companies?
I did not create the law, which mandated that public transit agencies in the state of Oregon, use binding arbitration to settle disputes, though it did take effect during my first term as your President. Since that time, I have had many discussions with members about this issue and I know many members want the ability to strike back.

I see the value of both options. I have succeeded each time I took a group out to strike (the only candidate running with strike leadership experience in our local!)

I do not take strikes lightly. They effect peoples lives. It’s something that happens rarely because I have made it my goal to exhaust all actions first!

It takes several critical ingredient for a successful strike. Solidarity, commitment and community support — like knowing exactly what every single member in that strike will need to stay afloat. Members and the community must come together in order to succeed. If we lose even one member of our team because of a strike, that is too many!

Consider this —Though I’ve seen just how powerful a strike can be, I also have seen that same power in taking actions that don’t require a strike at all, but definitely drive the message home loud and clear. It comes down to solidarity. Without that ingredient, it doesn’t matter what the law says. It takes 2/3 of the entire membership to authorize a strike vote. This might be why General Manager Neil McFarland went to Salem and lobbied to get your right to strike back.

5) The local media message is controlled by management. How do you propose to engage the media and help the public understand the issues we face?
Communication with the community is key. We have hired a full time staff person, Andrew Riley, to assist us in getting the Union’s message out to the community. We have built strong partnerships with organizations with common goals and have created an electronic newsletter our members can sign up for.

There is great value in building strong connections with our community.

We are the solution to the message getting heard. Imagine for a moment —What would happen if our Shop Stewards took one hour to hand out flyers to the community? Just TriMet alone, with our shop steward program goals reached, could have an 80 person task force to get your message out. And what if those same 80 went home and blitz their media platform — whether it be Facebook, Twitter or YouTube — with that same message? And what if that same message aired as a public service announcements on our local media?

There is no replacement for human interaction combined with a media campaign. The media is a reactive animal so we just need to give them something to react to. I’m not worried about management owning any media messaging!

6) Social media is a very active and volatile tool within our membership. How will you use it to communicate with US?
Our office has a Facebook page, Twitter account and website. We will continue the practice of utilizing all of it.

I am interested in creating ways for our members to gain secured information such as utilizing a password protected website, that could be used at critical times when we can’t meet face to face. I have opened up my personal Facebook page to connect with more of our members. I will be posting updates, labor issues and my own personal commentary with the target of building a stronger community. I will continue to be on Facebook after the election. This will not be a place to discuss private union business.

7) Members are upset with the arbitration process and how the union communicates decisions to the membership. Is this process broken? If so, please state your ideas on how to improve arbitration procedures.
When the employer does not follow the contract we must grieve it in order to preserve our rights.

The process is not broken, and has greatly improved. We’ve identified issues and improved internal flow and communications. We hired a labor relations person in the office which supports our members in working through the grievance and arbitration process, as well as settling many grievances thru arbitrations and expedited arbitrations.

I will be working towards creating a grievance committee that will help expedite the executive boards recommendation process.

Grievances delayed is Justice Denied.
I have successfully put arbitration timelines in C-TRAN’s contact stating that both parties have to follow timelines.

To expedite the arbitration process, we need to dedicate more resources to training officers and hire outside counsel to assist the union in arbitrations. No member should have to wait a year or more before having their day in court.

Creating tools online for tracking can save us money and save us time. I am excited about the idea of a centrally located tracking system for our members to keep up to date on Grievances and Arbitrations.

8) What’s your favorite union movie, and why? 
Norma Rae.
I saw it once when I was a kid with my dad and once as an adult. A powerful woman standing up for what’s right. Sally Fields did an outstanding job.

9) How do we get more members involved, attending meetings and adding to the overall discussion?
The reason someone engages with the union will vary and it's up to us to have the meaningful conversations to know what’s important to each of us. We all have unique talents and interests. For one person, they may be motivated to participate by being part of a committee, where another person would rather hand out flyers. Our job is to identify the tasks and create an easy way for people to engage and feel like their time was well spent.

We are focused on building a Union that has a familiar face to it for everyone. With the use of technology and implementing our Shop Steward strategy through 2020, we can do a lot. (1 Shop Steward for Every 10 members)

I expressed this goal to you in the last election and we’ve had a good response. Our shop steward program has more than doubled! That is great; and I’d like to do more.

A Shop Steward position has no prerequisites so it’s easy to get involved. (This position is where I started in my Union career.) It is one of the most effective methods to connect on issues with people who are trained in what to do.

10) I’ve only asked questions on a few points. Please let us know what other issues you believe are vital as we move forward.
Diversity is our strength!

To those who spend most of their time looking to find what’s wrong with each other, I ask you to try looking for what’s right and build common goals and create solutions together anyway. I’m excited as we get ready to enter into a next chapter as a Union. My hope is that all those running stay involved after this election. This Union belongs to all of us and we all have a voice!

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