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Not the TriMet We Signed Up For

This article is shared from the Pamplin Media Group What happens when TriMet, an irreplaceable part of the Portland metropolitan area's transportation infrastructure, ends an apprenticeship program for its workers and outsources work that should be done by TriMet's workers? Our community, TriMet's customers, and its workers are impacted negatively.

In recent contract negotiations with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, the union for most TriMet workers, management has proposed eliminating an apprenticeship program. At the same time, TriMet is increasingly contracting out jobs its own workforce should be performing.

Ending apprenticeships breaks a promise and is a giant step backward by TriMet. It would remove a pathway to prosperity and could potentially end the opportunity of a career at TriMet for some workers. Apprenticeship is a ladder upward to help workers earn higher wages, afford the basics and provide for a family. That matters for us and it matters for the entire community.

For customers who rely on TriMet buses and trains for transportation, losing the apprenticeship program and their other proposals to contract out critical work could have an impact on safety and service. It means the people maintaining public transit vehicles will not be as experienced and prepared as those who have gone through apprenticeships.

We are service workers at TriMet. We began working here because we saw a transit organization offering a career, not just a job. We held up our end of the deal: working low-paying, hard-as-nails jobs with the promise of a better tomorrow. By attempting to remove the apprenticeship program, TriMet is not holding up its side of the deal, ignoring the great sacrifices that many have made, including taking a pay cut to clean platforms and transit shelters in the hope of moving up to a higher-paying classification.

TriMet riders deserve to have the absolute best and most qualified people working on and operating the vehicles; the people right here at TriMet who know every rivet, seam, and bolt on our buses and trains.

The use of out-of-state contractors to perform critical tasks like inspection of vehicles is not what we expected to see when we began working for TriMet. This is work we are better qualified to do and can complete faster and more cost-effectively than anyone from out-of-state. Contracting work out sends the wrong message to the community and we hope to see TriMet cease this practice.

TriMet customers deserve the safest and best commute possible, delivered by the best, most experienced workers available, including workers who have been trained through an apprenticeship program that lifts up our workers and the entire community. We urge TriMet to respect our community's values and stand behind the people whose dedication and sacrifice keep the Portland area moving.

Christopher Tyson, who lives in Gresham, and Tigard resident Talur Burgwin are TriMet service workers. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons, license information

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