Friday, October 18, 2013
Solidarity the BART workers!
* "Why and How did the BART Union Leaders Disable and Sabotage the BART Strike?" message from "Labor, Black & Brown" solidarity organization [link]
* 2013-11-11 "BART management under government scrutiny over unsafe work environment" [link]
"BART management off tracks on bargaining"
2013-10-24 by Willie Brown [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/williesworld/article/BART-management-off-tracks-on-bargaining-4929111.php]:
The bitterness brought on by this year's BART strikes is unlike anything I've seen in all my years of labor negotiations.
And although there's more than enough blame to go around on both sides, I cannot for the life of me understand what BART management was thinking in the hours leading up to the latest walkout.
They make a "last and final offer" that the unions were ready to take, then pick a fight over a bunch of outdated work rules that they probably would have won had they gone to arbitration, as the unions were willing to do.
Then after an incredibly disruptive four-day strike, during which two workers are killed, management agrees to give the unions another 3 percent raise beyond what it had already offered.
How dumb is that?
Of course, management screwed it up at the beginning, too, when it brought in a known antiunion negotiator who did nothing but antagonize the other side.
Anyone with a lick of sense would know that you hire someone who's friendly to the unions. Tell them what your limits are and let them do the dirty work for you.
"BART Management Forces Workers to Strike"
2013-10-18 from "California Labor Federation":
After weeks of marathon negotiating sessions, worker concessions and assistance from federal mediators, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers and their unions thought they had finally reached a deal yesterday. But at the 11th hour, management decided to push for major changes to workplace rules that protect the people who make BART work from things like sexual abuse. The last thing the workers wanted was to strike, but it was the only outcome management would allow, and as a result, BART workers walked off the job and onto the picket line this morning. “This has not been a fair process to the hardworking women and men of BART from the beginning,” said California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski. “The California labor movement will continue to support BART workers in their fight for a fair contract. We urge BART management to quickly negotiate a fair settlement that allows workers to get back to doing what they’ve done for years -- serving the Bay Area community with professionalism, dedication and commitment.”
"BART Management Forces Workers to Go on Strike; California Labor Movement Stands in Solidarity with Workers in Fight for Fair Contract"
2013-10-18 from "California Labor Federation" [www.calaborfed.org/index.php/site/page/bart_management_forces_workers_to_go_on_strike]:
Statement by California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski
“For any union, going on strike is a last resort. After marathon negotiations in recent days that produced considerable progress, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) management pulled the rug out from under workers by demanding changes to workplace rules that protect workers from a range of abuses, including sexual harassment. The unions even agreed to arbitration to settle the remaining disputes on workplace issues, an offer that was flatly denied by management. As a result, BART workers were left with no other choice but to go on strike this morning. “BART workers repeatedly made concessions on economic proposals in recent weeks with the goal of averting a strike, even as management refused to bargain in good faith. It’s a travesty that even after workers made those concessions, management decided to move the goal posts in the 11th hour. This has not been a fair process to the hardworking women and men of BART from the beginning.
“Today’s strike was not an outcome workers wanted. But it was the only outcome management would allow. The California labor movement will continue to support BART workers in their fight for a fair contract. We urge BART management to quickly negotiate a fair settlement that allows workers to get back to doing what they’ve done for years -- serving the Bay Area community with professionalism, dedication and commitment.”
You never saw this coming: BART management put workers in extreme danger as part of their policy!
"BART workers on tracks don't get train warnings"
2013-10-21 by Demian Bulwa from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/BART-workers-on-tracks-don-t-get-train-warnings-4914319.php]:
The two BART workers struck and killed by a train Saturday told supervisors they were using a safety procedure that the agency sought to improve after state regulators said it contributed to the death of a track inspector in 2008, according to BART officials.
Under the procedure, employees who go on or near tracks assume full responsibility for their own safety - to the point that BART will not tell them when trains are coming, in order to force them to remain vigilant.
They must work in pairs, allowing one person to act as a spotter. They must be in a position to view an oncoming train 15 seconds before it arrives, and plan an exit route out of harm's way in advance of starting the job. They must also agree that their work will not disrupt service.
The procedure is called "simple approval," and workers typically invoke it when they need to check the rails or make a repair in an area that is not on the tracks, but near them. For more complicated jobs, higher levels of approval require trains to single-track around repair workers or avoid an area altogether.
Somehow, the procedure broke down when the two experienced workers - BART engineer Chris Sheppard and contractor Laurence "Larry" Daniels - were killed just after 1:30 p.m. Saturday between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations.
Train spotter -
Saul Almanza, a BART safety trainer and union official, said the men may not have known that trains would be running during the BART strike and so may not have been using a spotter.
"Under BART rules, workers going into the trackway must establish a watch person to look both ways and see, within 15 seconds, for any approaching train," Almanza said. "When two workers are involved in activity such as this, when they go out to do any kind of track measurement, two would be engaged in the task and a third person would be engaged in watching for trains at all times."
James Southworth, the National Transportation Safety Board investigator in charge of the probe into the incident, said Monday that the train that hit the two men had been under the control of an operator in training who has held other positions at BART.
Sources have told The Chronicle that BART has been training managers to become operators in the event of an extended strike.
Warning sounded -
The train was moving between 60 and 70 mph when it struck the two men, Southworth said. He said the operator had been aware that workers were in the area and had sounded an emergency horn just before impact.
BART's head of operations, Paul Oversier, said the men who died had been checking a report of a "slight dip in the rail" when they were struck by the eastbound train.
Almanza said crews dealing with such a dip would drive stakes into the ground, then run a horizontal line that would measure the depth of any depression. Such a job would require two men, most likely leaving no one to be the spotter, he said.
The simple-approval safety procedure is likely to be one of the focuses of the federal investigation.
It's not clear how widespread the practice is nationally. But Marc Littman, a spokesman for the Metro transit system in Los Angeles, said his agency has no equivalent of simple approval, and that employees are allowed to work only on tracks that train operators have been specifically instructed to avoid.
In addition, Littman said, track workers wear receivers on their arms that beep if a train does approach.
Radio alert -
Recordings of BART radio transmissions before Saturday's accident show that one of the workers who died radioed in to the operations control center in Oakland and was granted simple approval at 1:05 p.m. The transmissions were posted online by independent journalist Matthew Keys at www.soundcloud.com/producermatthew.
"We will provide our own protection," the worker told the system controller, "and not interfere with mainline or yard operations, respect movement of on-rail vehicles at any time or on any track in any direction, and understand that the third rail is hot."
A short time later, an automated message went out over the radio from BART operations to everyone working in the system, saying, "There are no personnel wayside."
But someone in BART operations promptly corrected the automated message. "Disregard," a male supervisor announced over the radio. "Attention all personnel - we have personnel wayside."
The supervisor then gave the location for the track workers between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations.
The simple-approval procedure was central to the investigation into the death of James Strickland, a BART inspector who was struck from behind by a train Oct. 14, 2008, as he walked east on the westbound track between the Pleasant Hill and Concord stations.
BART operations managers had granted Strickland simple approval. But they did not tell him that BART had shut down the eastbound track and begun single-tracking trains in the area, state investigators said. Nor were train operators in the area told of Strickland's presence.
Fines levied -
Investigators concluded shrubbery may have obscured the train operator's view of Strickland.
The state's workplace safety regulator, Cal/OSHA, issued four citations to BART and levied total fines of $28,685 for serious violations in connection with Strickland's death, including one alleging that the simple-approval system had contributed to the accident.
The agency's appeals board wrote a year after the accident that simple approval "deprives employees of (information about train travel) intentionally. The proffered reason for depriving workers of this information is so that workers stay alert at all times and expect a train at any time."
BART countered at the time that simple approval had worked well for more than 30 years, with no accidents. But the appeals board said an employer "cannot leave it up to the employee to safeguard himself."
Under state law, agencies must fix problems cited by Cal/OSHA after a case is over. But BART is still fighting the state's findings in the Strickland matter.
BART officials said they beefed up the simple-approval procedure on their own after the inspector's death, following the recommendations of an internal probe completed in 2009.
Now a spotter must be used when a worker is on the tracks. The operations center makes a general announcement of the workers' location over the radio, a step that was taken Saturday. And workers must be told if trains are "reverse-running" - moving on the opposite track from normal.
Some aspects of simple approval, though, remain the same as when Strickland was killed. Employees may approach tracks that are in full use, and they are not alerted to the locations of trains that approach them while they work.
A BART spokeswoman said she could not comment on the effectiveness of the changes, or how they may have played a role in Saturday's tragedy.
"BART Strike Fact Sheet"
Message of Solidarity for the BART Worker
2013-10-12 from "Light Brigade" [firstname.lastname@example.org] [https://www.facebook.com/bayarealightbrigade]:
Whether you like it or not, whether you care to admit or not, the 1% have declared war on the 99%. We are under attack on every front. Unions and Union workers are a prime target in this war. Because Unions are the only organizations in this country that are capable of organizing people from different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, cultures, religions for the single purpose of defending their rights. Unions also have a National and/or International reach. While most third party organizations are either local or irrelevant.
So it is vital for the 1%-ers to marginalize Unions. They’ve been at it for the past 30 years and they have honed their technique. In that context, the issue at BART, is about more than just raises, pensions and healthcare. It’s a matter of principle. It is about sustained attacks on Unions and Union workers. It’s about the 99% fighting back.
Whatever the outcome of the BART negotiations, it will have a direct effect on the rest of us. If they win their argument, it puts the rest of us, Union and non-Union alike, in a better position to demand better pay and better working conditions.
If the BART Unions are forced to take concessions it will embolden the 1%-ers and set a bad precedent. There are a number of negotiations coming up next year and they will be directly effected by it.
So BART workers deserve every ounce of support we can muster. They’re standing up not just for themselves, but for all of us.
Please pass this on to at least five people especially those who might be affected by the strike. Many thanks.
It’s the 1% vs the 99% … Again!
BART workers and their Unions are being forced into a strike which may take place as soon as Sunday at midnight. This will cause congestion on roadways and bridges of Bay Area. But while you’re sitting in heavy traffic and stewing, don’t curse the so called overpaid, lazy Union workers. Acquaint yourself with a few facts first. Of course you know, that you will not get actual facts from the corporate media, only melodrama!
Fact: For BART workers, a strike is a last resort. They are more than willing to sit down and negotiate. It is the Board of Directors who refuses to negotiate. The Board of directors has not made a new offer in the past two months.
Fact: Workers on strike do not get paid. Consequently they can not contribute to benefits such as healthcare. The Board and General Managers continue to get paid, regardless of how unwilling or incompetent they are at resolving labor issues.
Fact: BART’s General Manager Grace Crunican sits on the Board of directors of the “Bay Area Council”. A group of CEOs and managers dedicated to lowering wages and deteriorating working conditions for all workers. In short, to put profit before people.
Fact: BART Management has fired George Figueroa, the head of the strike team for ATU1555, in retaliation.
Fact: The Board has spent $400,000 to hire a consultant turned negotiator from a private corporation named Veolia Transportation Services. Thomas Hock was brought in through the back door in an underhanded way. He has a reputation for Union-busting. His general strategy is to push Unions into a strike, provoke public anger and frustration against them, forcing them into taking concessions and pay cuts. That is $400,000 not spent on safety measures and upgrades for the paying public.
Fact: The operations of AirBART, the shuttle service between BART’s Coliseum/Airport station and Oakland Airport has already been contracted out to Veolia Transportation Services. AirBART tickets are $3.00 per person. AC Transit Bus #73 to the Airport costs $2.10.
Fact: The highest paid BART worker was not a worker at all. She was BART's former
General Manager, Dorothy Dugger who received a salary of $419,000 without doing a single day's work in 2012. That is on top of $920,000 she was given by BART's Board of Directors and the $181,000 pension she draws. SHE IS NON-UNION!
Fact: After retirement, BART workers must live on pension alone. They will not be eligible for Social Security. The average public worker’s pension in California is $25,000 a year. Hardly a King’s ransom.
Fact: In 2009 BART’s Board of directors lied to the workers and misled them into signing away $100,000,000 in benefits and pay. BART workers have not had a raise in four years. BART’s latest offer is tantamount to a pay cut not a raise. Unions are asking for an actual raise. Not an imaginary one.
Fact: Part of the concessions the unions made in 2009 was a hiring freeze, that has been in effect for the past four years. Consequently, a great number of BART workers have been shorthanded and have had to put in unreasonable amounts of overtime to keep BART running. The Management and the Board, in a shameless Machiavellian maneuver have factored those overtime payments into the salary of BART workers in order to exaggerate and inflate the numbers and demonize the workers in the eyes of the public. And to pit worker against worker, those who use BART against those who provide the services.
The local media keeps regurgitating these figures without fact-checking or questioning them. Ironically both NY Times and The Nation put the average pay for BART workers up to $15,000 below what the local papers consistently claim.
The overtimes were caused by the arrogance and mismanagement of the Board. If they did not deceive the Unions and did not insist on a hiring freeze, they could have offered more job opportunities to the local communities, put more money into the local economies and the existing BART workers could have gone home and spent more time with their families.
The Management also neglects to mention that they themselves enjoy the most expensive and wasteful benefits. Free laptops, free Blackberrys, free Travel, wining, dining and general boondoggling at the expense of the taxpayers.
Fact: The Management also double counts vacations. One assumes that vacations are included in the base salary. But at BART, due to more creative accounting, it is calculated separately and added on as a “benefit”.
Fact: Since 2009, BART employee injuries have risen by 43%. In the past year alone the assault on station agents has risen from 9% to 31%. This statistic includes homicide and rape. Workers are asking for safety measures such as more, better lighting and installation of bullet proof glass. Yet the BART Board of directors refuses to spend a single penny to ensure the survival of its workers and the safety of the public.
Fact: BART revenues have risen to above 718,000,000. Its sales tax revenue has jumped to 207,000,000. (Yes that’s money coming out of your pocket) It currently has 125,000,000 in surplus. Yet the Board is unwilling to spend a penny of it in the community or for the community.
The privatization sharks have smelled surplus and are circling. Some Union activists believe that the marginalization of Unions and workers is a step towards future privatization of BART.
Many fear the implementation of the “Wisconsin” labor practices. Governor Brown by his unnecessary involvement has signaled that he will ride the wave of public anger and frustration to introduce legislation which will forbid public workers from going on strike. Such legislations already exist in 35 other states. Workers who defy the law and go on strike can be fined or spend up to one year in prison. In California the only state law prohibiting public workers from striking applies to Firefighters. In the city of San Francisco public workers including Muni are prohibited to strike.
So you see, the future Gridlocks have been brought to you by the members of the BART’s Board of Directors. The six figure 1%-ers! Not the five figure 99%, working stiffs like you.
Be sure to fully express your gratitude next election year.
Send your “love” to: Gail Murray, Joel Keller, Rebecca Saltzman, Robert Raburn, John McPartland, Thomas Blalock, Zakhary Mallett, James Fang. Tom Radulovich
And let’s not forget the General Manager, the lovely Ms. Crunican: The woman who speaks with a forked tongue. While us working class people keep our tongues firmly imbedded in our cheeks!
"BART Workers Call for United Labor & Community Organizing Meetings"
* Rally and March, Tuesday October 8 at Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza, 5pm
BART General Manager Grace Crunican sits on the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Council, a group of Bay Area CEOs and managers working to bring down wages and working conditions for all of us. Help strategize and organize to beat back the Wisconsin attacks in the Bay Area.
When BART workers went on strike July 1, the whole Bay Area was affected. BART unions are doing what they can to prevent another strike, but BART has hired a major union buster to put the workers on strike, then blame the workers in a highly visible battle to bring Wisconsin-style attacks to the Bay Area and drive down living standards for all Bay Area workers. The 60-day cooling off period expires Thursday, October 10 at midnight, yet BART management still refuses to negotiate, likely forcing the workers out again after that.
BART management is following suit with other bosses who try to pit the people who rely on public services against those providing the public services. BART cried poor and pressured workers to give up major concessions for the last eight years, though it was discovered BART had tens of millions in surpluses. BART's records now show a $125 Million annual surplus, but they believe they can generate enough public hostility against the workers or keep them out on strike long enough that they are forced once again to take major concessions.
This struggle is not just about BART. We’ve seen the same attacks on the city workers of Oakland, Hayward, San Francisco, at the Oakland airport and Port of Oakland, and throughout the area. Workers who are more vulnerable – those without unions, or undocumented workers – face even greater struggles. The plan to close City College of San Francisco adds to attacks on current faculty and staff jobs by denying access to education and jobs for many future workers. BART workers represented by ATU 1555, SEIU 1021, and AFSCME 3993 invite all affected by and concerned with these struggles to help plan and organize to unite these fights against Wisconsin-style attacks and to defend decent jobs for the Bay Area.
WHEN: Thursday, October 3, 6:00pm
WHERE: ATU 1555 Hall, 132 Ninth Street, Oakland, CA.
(by Lake Merritt BART)
For more information, contact ATU 1555 Recording Secretary Chris Finn at email@example.com or 415-867-5174
"Active Support for BART Workers with Bart Strike Deadline October 10! Need Active Support for BART Workers"
2013-09-30 from "Labor Notes Bay Area" newsletter:
As we approach the October 10th deadline, it becomes clearer that how the issues in the BART strike are resolved will impact every union contract and the wages and conditions of all workers in the Bay Area.
Many BART passengers are justifiably concerned about the chaos that will result if service is stopped. The BART Board and employer associations are using this fear to mobilize support for the Board's bargaining position demanding cuts from the BART workers.
We need to turn this around and explain why it is the Board that is purposely provoking a strike AND must be held responsible for it.
Here is an excellent East Bay Express article that explains the financial issues [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/why-barts-wage-offer-doesnt-include-a-raise/Content?oid=3719774].
The BART board and mainstream media are spreading the word that the Board has been compromising while the unions have been intransigent. The reality is something quite different. BART clearly planned for a strike when they paid $400,000 to hire as chief negotiator, Thomas Hoch, with a record of union busting and forcing strikes as the way to defeat unions. (See East Bay Express story here [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/barts-lead-negotiator-has-a-history-of-illegal-behavior/Content?oid=3647205])
BART workers took a wage freeze four years ago to help out BART. In these contract negotiations the BART proposal has been to cut worker wages/benefits when inflation is figured in.
Because the jobs are unionized and it is difficult to outsource them, BART workers get good wages and benefits. They are not excessive--in the $20.00 to $30.00/hour range. These set the bar for the wages and working conditions of others in the Bay Area, particularly public employees. If management is successful in lowering the wages and benefits for workers with strong unions it will intensify the downward spiral for all working people in the community.
BART workers are seeking support. How you can help:
* Bart Workers have an adopt-a-station program to leaflet BART passengers before the strike. If you can help, particularly during the morning rush hours, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Put "I support BART Workers" in the subject line and indicate the station(s) you are willing to leaflet, days and times. Or call 1-415-571-5741.
* They are asking supporters to go to community meetings, council meetings and call attention to the workers side of this story.
* They are planning a big community support march on October 8 at 5pm starting at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland.
Leaflets and information are available at these web sites:
* See ATU 1555 We Make BART Work website [http://www.wemakebartwork.com/]
* See SEIU 1021website [http://www.seiu1021.org/2013/09/02/workers-expose-bart-management-and-their-chief-negotiator-thomas-hocks-attempts-to-delay-bargaining-until-the-final-hour/]
"Workers Expose BART Management and Their Chief Negotiator Thomas Hock’s Attempts to Delay Bargaining until the Final Hour; Joined by Community Leaders, Workers Raise Concerns Over BART Chief Negotiators’ Scorched Earth Tactics and Efforts to Force a Strike"
2013-09-03 by "SEIU 1021", "AFSCME 3993", "ATU 1555" [http://www.seiu1021.org/2013/09/02/workers-expose-bart-management-and-their-chief-negotiator-thomas-hocks-attempts-to-delay-bargaining-until-the-final-hour/]:
Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) calls on BART Management to get back to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith.
Alameda, CA — Today BART workers represented by ATU 1555, SEIU 1021, and AFCSME 3993 were joined by Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) to demand that BART Management and their negotiators end their delays and return to the bargaining table. Workers who serve on the unions’ bargaining teams also demonstrated how BART Management continues to avoid serious negotiations designed to reach a fair deal by October 10.
Twenty-two days into the state mandated 60-day cooling off period, BART management and its out-of-town chief negotiator Thomas Hock have refused to negotiate on economic issues until 37 days into the cooling off period. The unions have each offered a number of days to meet before September 17th, but BART’s negotiators have declined to accept any of them. Furthermore, BART has also refused to authorize the release of workers who serve on their unions’ bargaining teams to caucus and meet in order to resume negotiations.
In a letter addressed to the governor and Attorney General Kamala Harris and released at a press conference held earlier today, SEIU 1021 Executive Director Pete Castelli explains, “Waiting until day 37 of the cooling off period to even sit down to discuss the economic issues that, along with worker and rider safety, are at the core of this dispute represents BART Management’s efforts to force a strike and create a serious disruption of the Bay Area’s public transportation system.”
Standing with their fellow workers who have kept BART running around the clock during the Bay Bridge closure, leaders from ATU 1555 and AFSCME 3993 also expressed deep concern and disbelief at BART negotiators’ efforts to incite a strike in October.
“It is truly appalling how BART Management and their $399,000 hired hatchet man Thomas Hock have misled the public and the governor,” said ATU 1555 President Antonette Bryant. “While they’ve claimed that they’re interested in meeting and negotiating, BART’s chief negotiator Thomas Hock could care less about reaching a fair and equitable agreement that would guarantee a safe and reliable system for riders and workers. He’s once again trying to force another strike by doing whatever it takes to delay bargaining until the final hour.“
“We believe a negotiated agreement is still very much possible,” said Patricia Schuchardt AFSCME 3993 President. “We’re ready to go back to the table to reach a fair resolution as soon as possible. It’s time that BART’s negotiators fulfill their promises to the governor, the riders, and the workers and continue negotiating.”
On August 11, a judge granted Gov. Brown’s request for a 60-day cooling off period. BART Board President Tom Radulovich had urged the governor to call for the 60-day period so as to allow “us to continue negotiating while assuring the public that it will have transit service tomorrow and for another 60 days to continue to bargain.” Twenty-two days into the cooling off period, BART Management has yet to meet and bargain with ATU 1555 and SEIU 1021, and has only met with AFSCME 3993 once. Together, the unions represent 2,400 workers who keep BART running.
"Why BART's Wage Offer Doesn't Include a Raise: The transit agency contends that it has offered employees a generous 10-percent pay bump over four years, but in real dollars, BART workers' wages could actually go down"
2013-09-25 by Darwin BondGraham [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/why-barts-wage-offer-doesnt-include-a-raise/Content?oid=3719774]:
If you're still trying to understand what exactly BART and its unions are fighting over, you're not alone. Obviously, the fight is over compensation, but many of us are unclear as to what each party is really asking of the other. Even bargaining representatives on both sides are having a hard time agreeing on the factual differences between their own proposals. Last Wednesday, union and management teams sat down just to clarify some of their financial assumptions — assumptions that have led to multimillion-dollar disagreements over what each side is truly proposing.
So what do the unions want? What does BART want? And why can't they seem to agree on something in the middle?
Quite simply, it's the difference between a pay raise and a pay cut. From the very beginning, the unions have demanded a pay increase while BART managers have tried to impose what amounts to a cut in take home pay in order to keep more cash in the system's coffers. While both sides have moved closer toward a middle ground, they still remain far apart.
To truly understand where each side is, it's important to fully analyze the proposals, not only in terms of how they'll affect wages, but also how they'll impact workers' retirement and health-care costs.
Let's start with wages. Throughout the summer, we heard from BART management and the mainstream press that unions were demanding an "unreasonable" 21-percent pay hike over three years, while BART was offering a more realistic 10-percent increase in wages over four years. These two numbers — 21 versus 10 — have dominated the debate so far. "We've heard from our employees that they want to see an increase in take home pay in each of the four years, and we have an offer on the table that will do that for them," said BART president Tom Radulovich at a recent press conference, referring to the agency's 10-percent wage increase proposal.
But BART's offer — and much of the news media coverage of it — has routinely omitted one key fact: the cost of inflation. All economists agree it should be never be overlooked when discussing wages. And yet, in this case, inflation has been overlooked, including in most discussions about the unions' wage request as well. Considering inflation, the two numbers more appropriately discussed are not 21 and 10 but instead 6 and 0.
According to BART spokesman Rick Rice, the agency's current offer does not include annual cost-of-living increases to account for inflation. But inflation is projected to be about 2.5 percent annually over the next few years, so BART's offer, when calculated over the four years of the agency's proposal, could actually net out to zero, or become a wage reduction in terms of the real value of take-home pay. In other words, BART is not actually offering a pay increase.
This fact hasn't been clear throughout the contract negotiations because neither side has explained how inflation undermines the real value of wages if yearly pay increases amount to less than the inflation rate. The Governor's Board of Inquiry reported last month that BART management proposed the "elimination" of cost-of-living adjustments in any contract.
"Ten percent over four years is essentially a cost-of-living increase," said Ken Jacobs of the Center for Labor Research and Education at UC Berkeley, referring to BART's wage offer. "While nominal wages would rise, real wages would remain flat."
When analyzing employee compensation, economists always account for inflation. Failing to do so renders an analysis inaccurate. When inflation is properly accounted for — by subtracting it from a proposed "nominal" (face value) increase in wages — you end up with what economists call the "real" wage. It reflects the actual purchasing power a worker has, and determines whether or not he or she can afford housing, transportation, food, and other goods. In the pricey Bay Area, it only makes sense that both sides in the BART contract negotiations should be taking inflation into account.
As such, the unions' initial wage request was never 21 percent over three years. When adjusting for inflation, it was actually about 12 percent over that time span, or a little less than 4 percent annually.
But there's another area in which disagreement on the most basic facts and assumptions has made it incredibly hard to understand what's being proposed from both sides. The unions want a three-year contract and have calculated the costs of their proposal over that time span, while BART management wants to strike a four-year deal. As a result, BART managers have sometimes added the assumed cost of a fourth year to their calculations of the unions' proposals. Rice responded to the unions' latest proposal by doing just that: "the District is firm on negotiating a four-year contract," he said last week, "and if you extrapolate this new proposal over that period this is still a 21.5 percent increase."
Rice was referring to the unions' recent decision to drop their request for annual cost-of-living increases from their proposal, thereby moving their wage demands much closer to what BART had been asking for. The unions' new wage proposal, calls for a 4.5 percent raise every year for three years, totaling 13.5 percent. When accounting for inflation, the proposal only represents a raise of about a 6 percent raise over three years, or 2 percent annually. And when adjusting for other economic factors, it's actually less than that.
The other economic factors are retirement and health-care costs, which can greatly impact workers' take-home pay. In the BART negotiations, both sides are proposing to have employees shoulder a bigger proportion of the cost of their pensions and medical care. In fact, when accounting for inflation and increased medical and pension costs, the unions' proposal works out to a total raise in take-home pay of possibly less than 3 percent. (In truth, it's nearly impossible to calculate a firm number because the proposals are moving targets at this point.) As for BART's offer, medical and pension costs could very well result in an effective pay cut for most employees.
One of the most detailed publicly available sources of information about BART's proposal was provided on August 10 by the transit agency in the form of an "employee impact statement." BART's managers crunched the numbers for their proposal to nominally raise wages by 10 percent over four years without cost-of- living adjustments. The agency's analysis also assumed that employees would pay an increase of 1, 2, 3, and 4 percent, respectively, in pension contributions over each of the four years, and that BART would cap its contributions to specific employee family health insurance plans. That change in medical coverage would force about eight hundred employees to pay more for their health care, according to the August 8 report of the Governor's Board of Investigation.
According to BART's analysis of its own proposal, utility workers, who currently take home $36,000 a year on average after taxes, would only see their pay increase to about $39,000 by 2017, after contributions to retirement and medical care are factored in. Train operators, who on average earn $44,000 a year after taxes, would only see their pay increase to $48,000 by 2017. There are about six hundred utility workers and train operators at BART, represented by Service Employees International Union and the Amalgamated Transit Union, respectively. That's about an 8- to 9-percent increase in take-home pay for utility workers and train operators under the four-year BART contract proposal. But when you factor in an annual inflation rate of 2.5 percent, BART's offer actually represents a pay cut of 1 to 2 percent over four years.
"I would assume a 2.5 percent inflation rate going forward," said Jacobs of UC Berkeley. He pointed to US Bureau of Labor Statistics figures that show that the inflation rate in the San Francisco Bay Area was 3 percent in 2012, and 2.4 percent so far in 2013. The most recent data from the California Department of Industrial Relations shows that consumer prices in the Bay Area rose 2.55 percent between June 2012 and June 2013. Long-term data from the California Department of Labor show that, since 1995, inflation has averaged 2.7 percent a year in the Bay Area.
"BART's Lead Negotiator Has a History of Illegal Behavior: The transit agency has sought to portray its workers as being unreasonable, but it hired a private negotiator that has a record of violating federal labor law"
2013-07-10 by Darwin Bond Graham [eastbayexpress.com/oakland/barts-lead-negotiator-has-a-history-of-illegal-behavior/Content?oid=3647205]:
Although BART workers are back on the job and trains have been running again for the past several days, the transit agency and its unionized employees remain far apart in negotiations. The Bay Area, as a result, could very well be looking at another strike in less than a month. To date, BART management has sought to portray the agency's train operators and station agents as being greedy and unreasonable for demanding pay raises. But what has gone unnoticed is the fact that BART management's lead negotiator and strategist, Thomas P. Hock, works for a private transportation company that has a long history of anti-union practices. Records also show that Hock and Veolia Transportation have repeatedly run afoul of federal labor laws and were previously ordered by federal authorities to stop engaging in illegal activities.
It is unclear why the BART board decided in April to hire Hock as lead negotiator and pay him $300,000. BART board members declined to comment about Hock's contract. The agency's agreement with Hock, who is a lawyer for Veolia Transportation, calls for him to "implement the labor relations strategy for 2013 collective bargaining with ATU [Amalgamated Transit Union] and SEIU [Service Employees International Union]." Under the agreement, Hock has substantial authority in the current negotiations, and is outranked only by BART General Manager Grace Crunican.
Members of both SEIU and ATU say that Hock's true labor relations strategy for BART is to bust its unions and make permanent the pay and benefits rollbacks that workers have endured in recent years. They believe Hock was brought in not to negotiate, but to create a crisis. "This is not about negotiating tough. This is about trying to bust the union," said Chris Finn, a BART train operator and the recording secretary of ATU 1555.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said she's not privy to the BART board's deliberations regarding the details of labor negotiations, including the board's reasons for hiring Hock in particular, as those sessions are closed to all except the board and its lawyers. "We've used an outside consultant as our lead negotiator in every single negotiation in our history," Trost said. "It's standard practice in the industry to use an outside expert to help navigate the negotiations process."
Trost also said that Hock's negotiations record includes only two strikes in the last five years. "He's negotiated more than four hundred contracts in his career," she said. "That is a tremendous record. You're always going to have something that goes awry, but he's well respected in the industry."
However, recent events in Arizona support some of the unions' claims that Hock's true goal may be to force a crisis at BART. Last year, transit workers in Phoenix and Tempe staged a six-day strike against Veolia Transportation. Arizona's cities have privatized their bus operations, and Veolia holds the contracts. Hock led his company's campaign against its workers. It was a bruising fight that required the intervention of federal authorities.
In hearings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Veolia was found to have engaged in "regressive, bad-faith, and surface bargaining," and numerous other unfair labor practices prior to the Phoenix bus strike. Hock was in charge at the time.
The general counsel for the NLRB listed the numerous allegations of abuses committed by Veolia in a lengthy letter to NLRB board members. Veolia was accused of violating federal labor laws by "failing to provide information requested by the Union." Unions routinely ask employers for information during contract talks — requests that are normally complied with. The allegation that Veolia withheld information crucial to collective bargaining in Arizona in 2011 and 2012 is echoed by union lawyers here as well.
In a lawsuit filed by SEIU and ATU on June 24 in Alameda County Superior Court, the unions alleged that BART has engaged in concerted illegal practices to obstruct progress in the negotiations. SEIU and ATU's lawsuit states that BART refused, delayed, or ignored ten different requests made by the union in October 2012 for information necessary for bargaining.
ATU and SEIU's lawsuit against BART also alleges that BART management sought to "delay bargaining from the outset and create a false sense of crisis." Lawyers for the unions added that, in communications with BART management back in April, when workers were ready to bargain, BART "revealed that Hock was not yet available to begin bargaining, leading ATU and SEIU to believe that BART had been delaying bargaining because of Hock's unavailability."
In Arizona, federal authorities also accused Veolia of "refusing to meet with the Union for purposes of negotiating a successor collective-bargaining agreement, engaging in regressive bargaining, and bargaining with no intent of reaching an agreement," among many other practices that are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act.
The NLRB found merit to this extensive list of charges against Veolia during the Arizona bus strike. Veolia signed a settlement agreement with authorities promising to cease all of these illegal activities. The company, however, ignored its obligations under the settlement and continued to carry out the alleged illegal conduct, according to records filed with the NLRB.
The NLRB's general counsel warned Veolia in several letters, one of which was sent to Veolia's lawyers. "The investigation of the recently filed charges, as well as the investigation into your client's compliance with the Agreement shows that your client has not complied with all terms of the Agreement," wrote Mary Davidson, an NLRB field attorney. "[Y]our client is in non-compliance with the Agreement. Such non-compliance triggers the default language set forth in the Agreement."
Only by threatening Veolia with a federally mandated default settlement did the company back down and agree to a deal with its employees that ended the strike.
Hock was quoted in the local media during the Phoenix and Tempe bus strikes, claiming that the unions caused thousands of commuters to wait countless hours on the curb. Part of Hock's strategy during the Phoenix bus strike was to cast the bus drivers as greedy and out of touch with the public. Hock and Veolia pointed out that "drivers in the Phoenix area are the highest paid in the Valley, earning an average of $22 per hour," according to a report in The Arizona Republic.
"Tom Hock was the cause of the strike here in Phoenix and Tempe," Bob Bean, president of the ATU in Arizona, told me. "Hock's not a negotiator. All he knows how to say is 'no.' He does not try and solve any issues."
Bean believes Hock was aiming all along to break the ATU in Arizona, not to find any common ground with the workers. "Hock was trying to take away all our benefits and everything we earned over 38 years of negotiations," said Bean. "If Hock can bust a union, he will."
Federal labor records and press reports from previous years suggest that Hock has devised similar brass-knuckle strategies across the nation. For example, in 1997 unionized paratransit bus drivers in Los Angeles filed complaints against First Transit Inc., alleging that the company had refused to bargain and bargained in bad faith, and that the company's management had coerced employees, spied on them, and illegally terminated 30 employees, costing them approximately $930,000 in lost wages. Hock was First Transit's chief negotiator at the time. The NLRB ultimately ruled in favor of the employees and their union, forcing payment of the back wages, but only after a decade of battle.
Last year in Connecticut, Veolia attempted to use a technicality to disqualify employees from joining a union by reclassifying their jobs as supervisory positions. The NLRB rejected this tactic and allowed for a union election to proceed.
In Las Vegas last year, bus drivers accused Veolia again of retaliation and firings of union employees, and of refusing to furnish the existing union, ATU Local 1637, with information necessary to conduct negotiations. Again, federal authorities intervened. The NLRB sided with ATU, ordering Veolia to "cease and desist from refusing to bargain collectively." The board also ordered Veolia to stop "interfering with, restraining or coercing its employees in the exercise of their right to self-organization."
"Hock shops himself around the American Public Transportation Association conferences and Veolia gets a cut of whatever he's making as an advisor to different transit agencies during their contract negotiations," said Bean. Last year, Hock attended the Transit CEO's Seminar hosted by the American Public Transportation Association in Orlando, Florida as a speaker. BART General Manager Crunican and other public transit executives were also on hand.
Veolia is a transnational corporation headquartered in France. Its North American subsidiary, Veolia Environment, of which transportation is a segment, specializes in operating utilities and transit systems for cities. Hock's role within Veolia is to advise both private and public transit operators on labor issues. He became a vice president of Veolia in 2008 when Veolia purchased his Cincinnati-based company, Professional Transit Management. At the time, Hock's company ran the transit systems of fifteen different cities. Records show that employees of Professional Transit Management have filed 51 complaints against the company before the NLRB since 2001, alleging that Hock's firm refused to bargain, bargained in bad faith, spied on employees, made coercive statements, and illegally fired or punished employees for engaging in union activities.
Hock is not the only Veolia asset tapped by BART. Both AC Transit and BART contract with Veolia to operate the East Bay Paratransit bus system. That contract is worth $232 million. BART pays $133 million of that.
"Every action that BART takes confirms to us that they have no interest in resolving this fairly or quickly," said SEIU 1021's executive director Pete Castelli during a press conference last Thursday. "It's clear that their only agenda is to reach a point to impose the contract on the workers and to weaken the union."
Arizona bus drivers' union leader Bean said, "Hock is doing the same thing out there in California he did here. He's got a track record."