One Week Left in Contract, BART Management and Labor Trade Barbs

With BART contracts expiring next Tuesday night and regional planning organizations urging Bay Area residents to create a contingency plan for getting to work if there is a strike or labor slowdown, BART management and labor representatives are accusing each other of bad-faith negotiations. Though they are bargaining around the clock and both sides insist they don’t want to resort to a lock-out or a strike, rhetoric suggests those options are a real possibility.

"The major sticking points are we need to come to agreement on the large economic issues," said BART Spokesperson Linton Johnson, referring to the $100 million management is seeking in concessions from the five BART unions. "None of the major cost-saving issues have been agreed to."

The unions argue that BART district management only gave them specific details for negotiating the various sections of the contract two weeks before the contract deadline, not on April 1st, as had been done with previous bargaining processes.

"I would say the district wasted the first two and a half months with fuzzy wuzzy lack-of-detail," said Jean Hamilton, President of AFSCME Local 3993. "Only in the last week did they present real details."

When asked what the implications were of the 91 percent of AFSCME union members who voted yesterday to authorize a strike, Hamilton stressed that it didn’t imply that a strike was imminent, only that the membership supported keeping that option open.

"The strike sanction speaks to the continued support by the members of the
board and the work that we’re doing on their behalf. It is not an indication that a strike will occur, just a confirmation that the union leadership has that tool in its toolbox. It’s all part of our by-laws."

Jesse Hunt, President of ATU Local 1555, which also authorized a strike vote yesterday with near unanimous support from membership, said the vote was merely a formality required by their by-laws. "I don’t think a strike is even possible on July 1, unless the district locks us out.  We are going to be at the table at midnight on June 31st, at 10 am on July 1, and 10 am the next day and for as long as it takes. We want to reach an equitable agreement and we’re committed to minimizing the disruption to the riding public."

BART’s Johnson viewed the matter differently. "For us it’s pretty disappointing that the average union worker making $71,663 without overtime thinks that it’s ok to go on strike. It basically says that they make enough money to take a few unpaid days off, while our riders can’t. 42 percent of riders make less than $50,000 annually in household income."

Though both sides reiterated to Streetsblog that they were meeting around the clock and were committed to working together as long as the other bargained in good faith, there isn’t much trust at present. Hamilton said these negotiations were some of the most contentious she’s been party to and that the negotiating attorney BART was using was a "carpetbagger" who was trying to vindicate previous bargaining losses.

Said Hamilton, "When the district bellies up to the bar takes a bit of a furlough, or relinquishes some of their benefits, then we’ll believe they are sincere in making the contribution they are asking about. We haven’t seen any proof of that."

Updated at 1:45 pm

  • I have to say, no one is coming out looking good in this. BART’s hardline anti-union rhetoric, and misleading stats is dissapointing at best. But the unions aren’t really looking too good either, and aren’t making any direct appeals to the owner/riders like they should if they expect any sympathy from an over-taxed, underpaid ridership that loses the most during a strike.

    Sure would be nice if tough times inspired people to work together, instead of beating each other to a pulp, but alas, that’s not the case.

  • marcos

    Your fare dollars at work, funding Sam Singer and Associates to slam labor and do everything possible to avoid a consensus solution.

    -marc

  • DaveO

    Just fire the lot of them.

  • CT

    we can let the union go… I am looking for a job.. so are the unemployed. who used to be rider and not have a job are willing to take 1/2 as what they are pay for now.

  • david vartanoff

    bad faith — oh right, not giving “our” side everything we want. And when do the riders get to ratify the contract?

  • patrick

    fire them all and start fresh there are plenty of people looking for jobs today who would be happy to work for much less, and probably work harder to boot.

  • pro transit

    How can anyone have sympathy for the “hard working” unions? BART “conductors” do absolutely no driving of the train, they only need to get off their butts once every 3 minutes and push a button to close the doors and announce the next station, no interaction necessary with passengers. Even then they manage to do a half-ass job. For this they get handsomely compensated starting at $80K a year. I can’t really vouch for the work station agents do, except that I’ve never seen them do anything, really. They always defer your questions saying things like “you can only do that at the Powell station, I can’t do that here” or “Call Customer service” or “I don’t know anything about what bus lines serve this station, you’ll have to ask Muni or call 511”.

    I can’t vouch for 37 years of BART administration either. They have borrowed against future political capital by caving into union demands and not holding the line on costs. Everyone knows these people are getting paid easily 20-50% more than they’re worth. Meanwhile we have tons of capable labor out of work, starving for work because of the false scarcity created by the unions. Police officers getting paid well, I can understand, Muni drivers is also a bit unsavory work too, but BART is a joke.

    Labor issues are a key component to transit systems being effective. Not only is it important in terms of providing more service for the taxpayer’s dollars, but there’s an element of pride and professionalism that is missing from the strong labor unions. No-one seems to go out of their way to help you out or make your experience better.. its all about the minimum they can do. Why can’t there be a lower base compensation package, but a bonus structure for outstanding and professional service, similar to the professional world?

  • pro transit

    My proposal during the strike? Casual carpool at every BART station. No one gets on the Bay Bridge unless it’s HOV 4+ or paying $8. It worked in NYC.

  • CT

    in order for any transit to work, the union have to be out. it have to make sure the worker or driver to care about their job. and a reason for the transit to stay on low cost.

  • Overheard on Caltrain:

    Conductor: Basically you have a lot of people not doing their expletive jobs.

    Passenger: Well what do you do about that?

    Conductor: Fire their asses. Of course, I am a union leader so it’s my job to keep them from getting fired no matter what. I tell the bozos at Caltrain they need to do a better job of hiring people because we it’s impossible to fire these losers once they get in, but the top brass is too lazy, they want to interview 4 people for 3 slots and only eliminate the worst one. They can’t spend an extra couple of days so I have to spend the next 30 years defending their lazy asses.

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