BART workers authorize strike

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PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER CARFI VIA FLICKR

Note: This post has been updated from an earlier version.

Bay Area Rapid Transit workers, whose contract expires June 30, have authorized a strike if negotiations with the transit agency do not result in renewed contract terms that are acceptable to both sides.

“They just announced it. Both unions overwhelmingly supported a strike vote,” Leah Berlanga, chief negotiating officer for Service Employees International Union 1021, told the Guardian in a phone call this morning. Votes were cast yesterday, and the results have just come in.

SEIU represents about 1,400 BART inspectors and maintenance workers. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which has also voted to authorize a strike, represents BART drivers.

For now, Berlanga said, SEIU and ATU remain at the negotiating table, and “we’re just focusing on reaching an agreement.” The contract is valid throughout June 30, so the earliest the transit workers could go out on strike would be Monday morning.

Contentious issues in the contract negotiations include workers' request for raises, which haven't been granted in years despite an uptick in ridership, and the agency's insistence that employees pick up a share of their pension contributions.

Union representatives have emphasized that their primary concern is worker safety. Last week, SEIU filed an unfair practices labor lawsuit alleging that BART was not negotiating in good faith, pointing to worker safety as a central concern. “We’ve been talking about health and safety for the last four years. By law, health and safety is a mandatory subject of bargaining. Management has rejected every proposal we’ve put forward that addresses safety, and they are not bargaining in good faith,” Berlanga said. On June 25, unionized workers and supporters held a press conference outside the 24th Street BART station, nearby where an employee was struck and killed by a train in 2001. SEIU representatives have said this death was preventable, blaming it on poor lighting inside BART tunnels.

Antonette Bryant, president of ATU 1555, also emphasized safety issues. “We've had over 1,000 passengers assaulted and 99 workers assaulted,” she told the Guardian. “That's something that we take very seriously. We want our work environment and riding environment on the BART to be safe.”

The agency is also trying to make changes to workers’ compensation programs, Bryant added, an issue that goes hand in hand with safety concerns. “They just give [compensation] to people that are hurt, they don't make efforts to rehabilitate and bring these people back to work,” Bryant said. “We are trying to start a new program for this and they just don't want to deal with it.”

Reached by phone, BART spokesperson Rick Rice told the Guardian, “We’re still confident there’s a deal to be had at the negotiating table. As far as I know, they are back at the table” after taking a break from negotiations yesterday, he said.

As of the morning of June 26, “We’ve gotten no notice from them” about when a strike could start, but “they’ve said publicly they’ll give 72 hours warning, and we would hope they would, for the sake of the riders.”

With regard to safety concerns, Rice said BART management meets weekly with union leaders on these issues and that the agency is planning to spend $4.5 million to replace lighting in train tunnels and had budgeted for “hundreds of new security cameras.” He said BART is asking employees to make higher contributions to their health care, and pay into their pension plans. He added that workers are requesting the equivalent of a 23.2 percent wage increase over the duration of the new contract. Rice did not have information about how this requested wage increase compares with the expected rise in the cost of living in the Bay Area, but said this was almost certainly a part of the conversation at the negotiating table.

Asked about the unfair labor practices suit, Rice declined to comment specifically on the allegations raised but stated, “We’re definitely at the table negotiating in good faith.”

Comments

Even the Democrats in DC couldn't bring themselves to vote for it when they had the chance. It's DOA now.

Posted by anon on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 11:19 am

The idea of single payer is that everyone would pay the same amount into a National Medical Insurance fund and receive benefits. Note the word "PAYER". Canadian and English medical systems require everyone to pay. In the US, you are never denied medical care - even if you pay nothing. That is why it is so expensive for those who do pay. Millions pay nothing.

Posted by Richmondman on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

prescriptions and dental work.

But of course demand overwhelms supply, as it always done when you make something that is valuable "free".

And of course nothing is ever really free. It just means that someone else covers your personal responsibility.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

in my book. France just jacked income tax rates to 75% to pay for all their obligations. You can keep that.

Posted by anon on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 10:50 am

Back to the main topic...

The Chron reports today that BART employees call in sick around 20 days a year. That's about one month of working days. The Chron also reports that BART employees make around $12,000 a year on average in overtime, which is paid at 150% of normal wages.

The connection is obvious. You take a whole bunch of sick pays along with your peers, and then you take a whole bunch of overtime shifts that pay a lot better.

Have BART supervisors ever tried to clamp down on this scam?

I suspect not. Because in the public sector, nobody cares about costs. The supervisors and the employees are all part of the same ruse.

But the public is perking up interest. And the public is not going to like a strike. The public is not going to side with the SEIU and its nearly free healthcare plan and bloated pension scheme.

Posted by Guest lecturer on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

The Chron article also says that the new union rep is anxious to agitate, that he cut his teeth working with textile workers in the south. No doubt those workers were getting a raw deal and deserved a raise. They were probably getting ZERO pension benefits.

But the BART workers have good healthcare for life and good defined-benefit pension plans that they pay 0% into. The BARTies are not going to get any luv from the public at large.

Posted by Decline to state on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

their fabulous perks and benefits is a big ask.

Posted by anon on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 6:01 am

I say fire them all and replace them with people that would appreciate what a great job they have....... Reagen did it with the air traffic controllers and I bet they
still regret going on strike.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 7:30 am

contract on BART's terms, and then hire or re-hire workers under the new deal? A conductor or operator is a lot less skilled than an air traffic controller.

Walking off the job is insubordination and so a firing offense.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 7:42 am

I'm disgusted with the BART workers' SEIU union. You've held the city hostage for demands that hardly any of your customers enjoy.

I blame you, BART workers. CA needs to learn how to stand up to its bullying public sector unions that extort too much by crippling the city. You are not on par with the highly skilled and specialized union tradesmen who have earned such protections. Public-sector unions should be illegal. You are cashiers and customer service people (rude ones at that) who could not find another job that would pay you close to what you make now.

Thanks for bankrupting the state with your unfunded pensions and for refusing to pay even a dime into your plans.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 11:56 am

Unfortunately this whole strike is a big shell game played by criminals(management and union bosses) to extort as much money from the riders and tax payers. Currently two terrorists are negotiating over how to best fleece the riders. Bart management is the same group that hires the dumbest cops(Mehserle) the dumbest managers(general manager Dorothy Dugger) and pays them handsomely for their incompetence. We need to recall the Bart board. These criminals also sit on the boards of several other transit agencies in the bay area. http://www.bart.gov/about/bod/
These morons fleece taxpayers and riders out of billions spending money on their favorites friends and cronies. This strike is not about safety or fare wages, it is about the union getting the same bloated paychecks and benefits as incompetent management. Remember Bart was designed to run without drivers when it was built 40 years ago. The current management group has been trying unsuccessfully to replace this innovative system with older more unreliable technology for 10 years. If people movers at SFO can operate without drivers so can Bart trains. I say fire the board, management and all the union employees and start over at Bart.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

The trains drive themselves, but the operators are there "just in case". Presumably they read books all day long.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

Hey Bart workers. Stop making it out like its the big bad BART that caused the strike. It was your choice. You want 21%+ raise in the next few years when people are getting no raises, small raises or pay cuts.

You want less to pay in pension and healthcare when people are looking for any type of work, students are stuck with higher loan interest rates and no jobs to pay for them, and plenty of qualified people are out there without a job and no benefits or are having to fund their own retirement.

Be appreciative for what you have. Great (easy) jobs, good (not great but good) pay and amazing benefits. The only people you are screwing are your fellow working people trying to get to work. Bart management does not care if we can't get to work because your union chose to strike.

Some of you when you get close to your demands will wish you had you nice job with the same pay and benefits you had when you get laid off to pay for those raises. After your last raise some 200 people were laid off, but you don't care as long as you get your demands and its not you.

Do the right thing Bart workers and take your very generous 8% raise and still amazing benefits and be greatful you are one of the fortunate ones with a job.

People are for once not siding with the union side because your only hurting the public, the people that ride your trains, pay your salaries and normally support you.

Posted by DaSnake on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

The BART Board needs to authorize the hiring of their replacements. Post every position for 80% its current salary. Offer to pay 80% of health care costs. Agree to make a $2000 IRA contribution for every 12 months of service with no more than the allowed 15 days Paid Time Off used and done with a good personnel review.

I'll bet they get more applicants than they can hire.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 02, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

I agree

Posted by E5 on Aug. 02, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

Make them all contractors and see if these overpaid transit workers continue their strike. Look at what happened to United and other vehicle manufacturer in Michigan. Remove the unions and make the employees contractors. Management can remain in-house employees.

Posted by E5 on Aug. 02, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

employees signed a contract to work until a specified day, then broke said agreement and demanded a longer work contract?

the reason we have contracts is to specify how long you have a job. i won't re-hire anyone who goes on strike four days before contract is complete.

the union whores need to speak with their pimps about why said pimps waited until the contract was up to re-negotiate.

also, if you want a "forever" job, why did you sign a contract that listed your termination date?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 03, 2013 @ 8:05 am

Can anyone say Greece? Get a grip and get to work. The BART employees are well compensated for there education. I agree that security needs to be increased on trains. There is no reason that these public servants need to be at risk. End the negotiations there! Obviously, public opinion is not with the local. Anyone in the union listening? You are not helping your peeps!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 13, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

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