So after about five months, the ATU finally agreed to enter the negotiation process with TriMet over a new labor contract. The squabble began when the union, desiring to see more transparency and figuring it wouldn't see it without a significant change, asked TriMet to make the negotiations open to the public. TriMet refused the request, but offered to allow a few members of the media to attend the session. The ATU wasn't content with this, as they knew the members would be hand-picked by the agency and would certainly show bias toward the agency.
So, they sat at a stalemate for five months, the agency using every press release (regardless of the relevancy) to get the public on their side of the squabble and both sides throwing different laws and regulations at each other trying to convince the other that "this law proves I'm right!"
The kicker is that they took the issue before a circuit court judge to determine whose legal reasoning was valid. But, to quote ATU president Bruce Hansen, "TriMet’s process for negotiations remains murky and confusing. That confusion left the judge unable to make a decision without first obtaining additional information" (atu.org). In other words, even the judge couldn't figure out who was correct, given the facts.
While I generally don't support unions, in this situation I've been forced to agree with the ATU in most things because of TriMet's obvious errors that have significantly decreases my trust. I applaud the union for holding firm for these months, as their doubt of TriMet's honesty seems more than valid. As this is a public agency and therefore an issue that the public truly cares about, forcing the agency to be transparent would be beneficial to all parties: the union and the public for obvious reasons, but TriMet also because it would give them the chance to prove to the public that they are telling the truth.
But I also am glad that the union decided now to come to the table. It is crucially important that the bargaining process begins. The union has made their point, but TriMet's incessant and needless attacks on the union will only continue and get even more crazy if things don't get going. And who knows how many years it is going to take to come up with a contract this time.
So, here's a simple compromise: TriMet gets to handpick five members of the media, and the union can't reject anyone. The ATU gets to handpick five more members of the media, and the agency can't reject anyone. And no one can reject anything they write. Now we have accountability and it still doesn't have to be public. Both sides get what they want.
It would be good practice for coming up with a contract.