While Oregonians exercised power at the polls in the 2012 elections Tuesday, workers in Portland also were gearing up for another election that would give them a powerful voice on the job.
After electoral wins across the state and three successful organizing drives in the past three months, full-time, part-time and extra board paratransit drivers and dispatchers with First Transit Region 3 voted Wednesday to form their own union with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 757. By an overwhelming margin, 160 employees voted to form the union in the election yesterday, which was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The recent organizing win by paratransit drivers and dispatchers with First Transit Region 3 in Portland is one of several victories for working families in the city who are gaining a voice on the job.
Paratransit drivers and dispatchers provide transportation services (vans and buses) to seniors and people with disabilities for whom it would be difficult, if not impossible to travel. This essential service provides dignity and security for the clients and these workers are enormously proud of the work they do and the service they provide. They formed a union so that they could participate in decisions about their working conditions. The election victory will enable them to improve their own working lives, as well as the service they deliver to their clients.
ATU Local 757 President Bruce Hansen said:
Our union welcomes the paratransit operators into our union family. These workers stood together to form their union and will stand with them to ensure that their voice is heard.
Cheryl Rain, a First Transit worker, said:
This isn’t about being against local management—it’s about collectively bargaining a fair set of rules that work for everyone.
"When I think about my future and family, I know that having a union and a fair voice in the workplace is the difference between this being just a job and a true career,” said Christopher Brown, a First Transit worker.
Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain said:
This is a great day for the Oregon labor movement. Not only did we have a successful political election on Tuesday, but we celebrate the successful efforts of paratransit operators to form their union on Wednesday. I know first-hand the importance of the service these workers provide and we couldn’t be more thrilled to include them in our movement.
In another victory for working people, the Portland City Council voted last night to approve permits for a cooperative, driver-owned taxi company Union Cab. Union Cab is affiliated with Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7901.
Oregon Live reported Union Cab supporters cheered and clapped in Portland City Hall when the measure passed.
This victory follows 1,900 full-time and part-time University of Oregon faculty joining the AFT earlier this year. More than 800 graduate employees at Oregon State University (OSU) also joined AFT.