BART workers say the district deliberately caused the strike

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Photos by Tim Daw

Members of BART’s three striking unions gathered, rallied, and picketed outside the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland for much of today, many of them still openly grappling with yesterday’s surprising turn of events that put them in the position of going out on strike for the second time this year.

As BART spokesperson Alicia Trost and SEIU Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez both confirmed this morning on KQED’s Forum, it was the district’s 11th hour demand for more authority to set work rules that caused negotiations to break down after days of intensive talks had gotten the two sides close to an agreement on the other issues.

BART officials such as Trost and BART Board President Tom Radulovich (who hasn’t yet returned our call for comment) publicly cast the work rule issue as about the district’s ability to modernize, citing how the district is still using fax machines and paper pay stubs rather than fully converting to electronic communications, blaming the requirement to consult with unions on procedural changes.

But Local 1021 Political Director Chris Daly told the Guardian that the pair had “completely mischaracterized” the conflict, and he speculated about whether Radulovich — who must approve the contracts but hasn’t been a party to the talks — was “being lied to” by BART’s management team and labor consultant.

Daly and other union leaders say work rules such as requiring union approval for changing past practices related to scheduling, hours, and the kind of tasks workers perform are essential to protecting things like the eight-hour workday, worker safety, and whistleblowing and free speech rights.

“We had a basic framework understanding on the economics, but then BART illegally tied that to this work rule change on past practices. And what that meant for us is in order to get a reasonable economic package, we needed to swallow this poison pill,” Daly told us.

George, a train engineer at the rally who wouldn’t give us his last name, said the work rules have been developed over decades and are important to the management-worker balancing act, but that they shouldn’t be a barrier to modernizing.

“We have long term work contracts because we’re here for the long haul and the employer is here for the long haul, so we try to work these things out,” he told us, saying that the workers strongly support their union leaders and have told them, “Do not bring us back a lousy offer to vote on, do your job.”

But not all BART workers feel that way, and some have supported the district’s demand that the union put its “last, best, and final offer” up for a vote of the membership.

“I'm really pissed. Obviously there’s been a decision in our union. I don't think the union is representing us, the [transit vehicle mechanics]. Nobody wanted to strike, not us,” said Robert Earl Bright, a BART engineer/mechanic profiled in the Guardian this summer. “None of the TVMs wanted to strike. Work rules, I have no concept.”

SEIU Local 1021 Executive Director Peter Castelli told the the Guardian that he understands the concerns of workers like Bright, but that he think most members will support the decision to strike once they get more information.

“It’s a fast evolving situation, with the stewards and union leadership saying ‘we gotta go out.’ So explaining things to our own membership takes time. But it shows the unity and how they trust their leadership,” Castelli told us.

He ridiculed statements by district officials that the unions are resisting modernizing the system. “We’re not afraid of technology, so that’s really grasping,” Castelli told the Guardian. “Some of the people in BART have technology degrees and they’re keeping the trains from wrecking, so we’re not afraid of technology.”

Instead, both Daly and Castelli said that the district was deliberately trying to provoke a strike by making a last minute demand that it knew would be unacceptable to the unions. “It’s to make us strike. The public is devastated by this, and for good reason, and we’re very sympathetic. So they’re thinking that, ‘Maybe we make them strike one more time and they’ll fold,” Castelli told us. “Our only other option is submission and surrender.”

Comments

Rather than, say, have the workers manage themselves? Gee, do ya think?

Of course the unions think the strike is due to management. They have to say that. Guess what? Management think this is all the unions' fault. And guesswhat - most of us agree with that view.

These workers have little sympathy with the public, given their insanely generous benefits package, which none of us have. I'm sorry but the unions and the workers are the bad guys here.

Chris Daly really has scraped the bottom of the barrel here.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 18, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

run it themselves. I've always supported workers buying shares in their workplace, and of course stock options.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 4:53 am

in fact since BART is a public system we want to keep the ownership of it in the people

but democratic control of the BART workplace could be turned over to all BART workers immediately and then the system would be run by the people who actually work it and understand it

and then the over paid managers who sit behind desks doing little more than directing others could be phased out to save the system a lot of money

Posted by racer x on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 8:22 am

BART management is the appointed agent of the people. They serve us. The BART union serves BART workers at the expense of the people.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 8:35 am
Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 9:25 am

negotiate with the cities directly on salary and benefits

but when it comes to running the system itself, it would far better for the workers to collectively make the decisions, rather than a bunch of overpaid middle managers

Posted by racer x on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 9:41 am

any of the people who have worked at the various co-ops around the city.

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 10:07 am

of course i have, and even if i hadn't, your comment wouldn't be relevant

worker run enterprises are a newly emerging phenomenon

many people who have not met someone in a worker democracy, can still easily understand the concept

Posted by racer x on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 10:23 am
Posted by jkdhf on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 10:40 am

Imagine if Rainbow Grocery workers ran BART. You think BART customer service is bad now!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 10:47 am

decades.. Rainbow is by far the best and best run of them all

Posted by racer x on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 10:57 am

You should do standup

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:09 am
Posted by fm on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:22 am
Posted by fmjt on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:09 am

You and your ilk aren't even a flea biting at the empire's ankle.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:16 am

i'll tend to the flea in mine

Posted by f on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:28 am

I saw a Bentley parked at Rainbow yesterday.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:16 am

buffets head chef?

Posted by ldiund on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:30 am

Thats why they can survive. They found a niche and it works more or less for them. If they tried to compete with the downscale market they would lose money in that area.

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:37 am

i am very low income and shop at rainbow constantly and i see a lot of food stamp users and other low income people shopping there as well

but thank you for helping me to continue to bump lame attacks that began this thread ;)

Posted by racer x on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:43 am

Why is your income so low?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:52 am

head, and a tiny bit of bucks to go to a show once in a while, i'm happy

Posted by racer x on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

Then why do you resent those who do more with their lives?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

is closed for the day

see you next time

Posted by pnfeb on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

Hie to Oakland, commie

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

and play wicked ski ball ;)

Posted by dfg on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

anything other than the most basic functions.

And anyway, where would he find the time for work? He has an all-consuming hobby - posting here.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

He should be paid to post here like Guest.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

no bucks for propagandizing here

rainbow ski-ball will open in upcoming new threads under other names soon!

save your dimes and nickles to play!

Posted by dfgh on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

Although I am curious whether Racer makes even less than the 15K a year that Eric makes.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

exactly how much more, is not your business, but i am definitely still in the low income category

Posted by racer x on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

"skew"

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 12:06 pm
Posted by buiksyg on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:44 am

And worse, comes with an attitude.

Co-ops dare generally badly run, with the odd exception. They also do not scale.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:25 am

rainbow has incredible customer service, incredible atmosphere, and incredible food, and one feels a wash of health and peace waft over them, just walking into the place

and it also operates at a *very* large scale

i would guess most of the people reading this blog have shopped there and so know that you are full of it

Posted by racer x on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:33 am
Posted by buiks on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:47 am

"rainbow has incredible customer service"

Anyone who has dealt with their workers knows this is laughable. Hundreds of yelp reviews complaining about their atrocious customer service confirm this.

"and it also operates at a *very* large scale"

Rainbow Grocery operates one store. That is a *very* small scale.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:50 am

no need to continue

Posted by kjhs on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 12:06 pm
Posted by Matlock on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

thanks for playing rainbow skee-ball ;)

Posted by nvd on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

aren't always friendly to yuppie slackers, and this is a good thing

Posted by buiksy on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:46 am

suits me fine ;)

Posted by nvidi on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

Once you start branching out you dilute the shares, another rainbow would have to foot much of the start up costs out of patronage, then support the store until it got going, then if it never took off would have to dilute patronage to a lower performing store staff.

If the second store took off the increase in patronage would likely not be all that much spread out, perhaps offset by the loans being paid off to open the second store.

If it was a complete fail it may drag the first store down with it.

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:56 am

about Rainbow.

Bro, I used to do this stuff for a living and had consulted with people on starting small businesses some.

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

for sharing your genius with the peons

ski-bal ticket says

game over

Posted by nv on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

more skee-ball

Posted by nvidio on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

In the maybe dozen times I have went there I have never had a bad experience. The checkers who are wasting their time putting up with the customers probably would not go over at Safeway, but I don't really need those people to be nice to me.

I have heard first hand of the various Israel boycott tales and stories of interactions with weirdo customers and co-workers.

A coop BART with a PC star chamber hiring committee influenced by the SEIU would probably run afoul of dozens of state and federal laws right off.

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:32 am
Posted by buik on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:48 am

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