*This stories was produced for a class and was revised based on instructor feedback*
The Lane Transit District Board Room overflowed with people wearing matching white T-shirts bearing the emblem for the Amalgamated Transit Union 757- the labor union representing the bus drivers, mechanics and more that make up Lane Transit District. LTD board members conversed as they sat around a horseshoe-shaped table, while the evening's few presenters took their seats in the front of the room. The union members buzzed with tense energy as board members appeared unfazed.
At the monthly LTD board of directors meeting Oct.18, approximately 35 ATU 757 members attended to demonstrate their unity in demanding a fair contract. The contract, which expired Jun. 30, 2017, has been in negotiations for five months and was scheduled for negotiation discussion during an executive session at the end of the public meeting.
Although by law transit workers are not permitted to strike, contract disagreements could cause severe tension among union workers. This same union has been in negotiations with the Portland transit district, TriMet, for over a year, which caused the group to threaten with protests.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, citizens are generally permitted to speak for three minutes, but last night's crowd was larger than usual.
Speaking to the crowd, LTD board of directors member Gary Wildish looked at the long list of citizens signed up for public comment and said, "If we're going to get through this many people we're going to have to limit each person to one minute and thirty seconds." The list comprised of each of the present union workers names.
An older man with a light gray pony tail and matching beard sat before the microphone to speak on behalf of the group. He looked up at the board and asked, "Can I have three minutes?" The board, recognizing the man as an officer for the group, agreed.
Carl Faddis, executive board officer for ATU 757, gestured to the union workers who surrounded him and said, "We've got to be present to win." Union workers executed this, "stunt" as they called it, to remind the board that they are watching.
Faddis, who served as the spokesperson for the group, explained that they wanted to ensure those in a position of influence, such as the board, understand that their decisions affect real people.
"When all boats rise, we're proud they are rising because they're our boats too- just don't forget about us," Faddis said as he spoke on behalf of the group. When the microphone signaled 30 seconds remaining to speak, he said, "We have been the heart and soul of what this community sees. We are real people, with real dreams and real families to take care of." Faddis thanked the board for their time; then the entire group filed out of the room without another word.
The meeting continued as the union group congregated outside the building and expressed satisfaction with how the demonstration had gone.
The previous contract was in effect from Jul. 1, 2014, to Jun. 30, 2017. Faddis declined to comment on the specific issues undergoing negotiations.
Though the union members were not permitted to make public comment, one anonymous member expressed general displeasure with how negotiations have gone thus far. "They should be forewarned that we are not going away," he said.
Members of the board could not be reached for comment.
“It is my heart’s desire that we can collaborate on these issues and find mutual interests between the union and county,” said Faddis, who remains hopeful that a contract will be agreed upon soon.