I've been a long-time Bay Area resident: Born in San Francisco, raised in Berkeley and have been riding BART ever since the 1980's.
I am also very pro-union, have always supported union workers against corporate companies like Wal Mart which have traditionally paid poor salaries and treat workers like dirt. I've always have supported them as I believe a corporation like Wal Mart should be able to afford a better salary for its store employees.
I've even seen quite a number of protests by janitors and other underpaid workers at the Hyatt Hotel by the Embarcadero BART station on Drumm St. and Market St in San Francisco. I've supported those workers 100%.
However, with the BART strike that happened last July and today, unlike most cases of strikes by union workers, this one creates greater liabilities than needed.
As much as I've always supported unions, I have to admit, the BART unions here that have launched a second strike which has caused the train service to shutdown are doing things in a very non-strategic way.
Here's a couple of recent statements by the SEIU Local 1021 on the second BART Strike:
STATEMENT BY SEIU LOCAL 1021 EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR PETE CASTELLIIn addition, a statement coming from Roxanne Sanchez, President of SEIU 1021:
Oakland, CA — “I’m surprised and sorry to be standing here tonight. In all my years in the Labor movement, I’ve never seen an employer drive negotiations that were this close to a deal into a strike.
After a marathon 28-hour bargaining session, BART’s two largest unions thought they had the final framework for a deal
We met BART’s demands on pensions.
We met BARTs demands on health care benefits.
We had the outline of a deal on wages.
We offered to send unresolved work rule issues to voluntary binding interest arbitration.
But after telling the public that their main goal at the bargaining table was saving money to buy new trains, BART management blew up negotiations by insisting that employees sacrifice workplace protections in exchange for economic well-being. This was a poison pill for workers: choose between your paycheck and your rights.
We had a rough deal on economics. We can’t believe BART is willing to incite a strike over their professed desire to implement an electronic pay stub system and handheld computers in the workplace.
This is ridiculous.
BART became the top-rated transit system in America with its current work rules.
BART increased ridership from 270,000 riders to 400,000 riders per day with its current work rules.
What’s more, BART never focused on performance or efficiency issues during bargaining and repeatedly acknowledged that productivity in the system had increased. The fact is that the system is carrying more passengers than ever with fewer frontline workers than ever.
The rules we’re focused on protect basic rights. Like the 8-hour workday. Like past practice language that protect our workers from punishment and retribution when they report favoritism, sexual harassment and other problems in the workplace.
In the end, we’re willing to let a neutral third-party arbitrator help both sides work through the differences on work rules and reach final agreement on the economic package discussed on the last 28-hour bargaining session.
Despite reports that BART General Manager Grace Crunican and Board Chair Tom Radulovich are trying to meet with our union, I want to confirm that neither has contacted me nor the other top staff of the union to restart talks since bargaining broke up this afternoon.
Tonight Roxanne Sanchez, President of BART’s largest union, SEIU 1021, released the following statement:With all due respect, I hate to break it to Sanchez but the majority of BART riders and Bay Area residents are not on her side so if she believes SEIU 1021 truly understands the riders' frustration, the answer is no, they do not. BART riders, predominately, are attacking BART unions so Sanchez should have probably learned by now that perhaps after the first strike, maybe another one wouldn't be such a good idea.
“We truly understand the riders’ frustration, because we share the same frustration that we’ve not yet reached an agreement.
We are encouraged by the progress we’ve achieved, and at the request of the federal mediators, we will continue to bargain. Tonight we are prepared to bargain until we reach an agreement and there will be no disruption in service on Wednesday. ”
I'm not issuing a personal opinion here. I'm just pointing out that the Bay Area at large, which has always been liberal-minded and filled with lots of diversity, is not in favor of the strike and it's a PR nightmare for the BART unions. Should we all of a sudden label the majority of Bay Area residents conservative or any Obama or Pelosi supporters as conservative all because they disagree with SEIU 1020 and BART union employees to strike?
Keep in mind that there are many people in all different levels of income, poor, lower class, middle class, upper middle class and upper class that ride BART every day whose lives are being impacted by the BART strike. For example, there's this U.S. Postal Worker who commutes all the way from Richmond to Civic Center BART station only to wait at a bus stop at Market and 8th Street for a #19 going all the way through Bayview. As I understand, the Post Office is always impacted if its understaffed nor if there are delays in workers getting to work but if any Postal employees are late or commuting by BART, surely their absence or delay in getting to work impacts the Post Office, which by the way has union employees just like BART does.
What's missing in this dialog or any of SEIU 1020's statements is whether or not BART union employees have bothered to make a trip to the California State Assembly, State Senate or even Governor Jerry Brown's office on this matter prior to considering striking. Was this never considered apart of the strategy to persuade BART management? I mean, CA State Government has the power to change law that affects BART however which way it can.
Think about it: The Democratic Party in California has a super majority in the State Assembly and State Senate. In addition, there's a Democratic Governor. It's not as if BART unions would be dealing with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker or Florida Governor Rick Perry. The majority of Democrats in the State Legislature are pro-union and receptive to BART union employees concerns. And I don't mention the strike. I mention the concerns BART union employees have, which were clearly outlined in the most recent statement by SEIU 1021:
But after telling the public that their main goal at the bargaining table was saving money to buy new trains, BART management blew up negotiations by insisting that employees sacrifice workplace protections in exchange for economic well-being. This was a poison pill for workers: choose between your paycheck and your rights.I would think it would be logical for SEIU 1021 and BART union employees causing the strike to instead report the problems in dealing with BART management and other problems with BART in general (i.e. security, crime, theft, better working conditions, etc.) to the State Legislature and Governor's Office. After all, it seems evident at this point that BART management has a one-track mind and seems to be unwilling to budge at this point.
By going to State Government, BART union employees and SEIU 1021 would ideally get more traction because with the Democratic Party in general, it's hard not to listen to their concerns.
For instance, they might turn consult with Democrat Steve Glazer, an Orinda Councilman running for the 16th State Assembly Seat (which is being vacated by Joan Buchanan) who as it turns out sees a wider issue with the BART strike as impacting residents in general and is looking to push a BART strike ban:
You may have seen Steve Glazer at the Walnut Creek BART Station. Or it could have been at the station in Lafayette. He's also made appearances at the Dublin and Pleasanton stations and had plans to visit Rockridge.Note though that Glazer is not necessary anti-union although he recognizes that the thought of preventing a strike might get him backlash. However, he also points out that a number of public employees in cities like Chicago and NYC ban strikes by policemen and firefighters:
For the past 12 days, the Orinda councilman has waged a one-man campaign against a threatened strike by BART workers, handing out fliers and securing signatures for a petition that makes clear its intentions in the first sentence: "We, the undersigned, support state legislation to prohibit public transit workers, including BART, from striking ..."
It so happens that Glazer is also a candidate for the 16th state Assembly seat about to be vacated by Joan Buchanan -- he paid for his handouts out of campaign funds -- so a cynic might suggest this burst of activism is a carefully crafted publicity stunt. Glazer understands but politely disagrees.
"I know this all sounds like bull," he said, "but I'm trying to do the right thing. In some ways, I wish my candidacy didn't cast the shadow that it does. That's a long time from now."
At risk, he said, are the transportation needs of some 400,000 daily riders who count on BART. The region will be crippled and roadways paralyzed if train operators, mechanics and station agents walk out over unmet contract demands, as they have vowed to do in three days.
He argues that there are ample precedents for government intercession. Transit workers in Chicago, New York, Boston and San Francisco are prohibited from striking. Ditto for police and firefighters in California. With the right piece of legislation, commuters' angst can be erased.
The contradiction of Glazer, a Democrat, supporting a perceived anti-labor proposal is not lost on the councilman. He knows he risks alienating traditional supporters by taking the position he has. Several BART workers who've seen him distributing fliers have expressed such sentiments with colorful invectives.
"This is not something a Democrat would typically do if he aspired to higher office," he acknowledged. "The labor community contributes a huge portion of any Democrat's campaign war chest."
Now I don't want to take a way any union's right to strike or protest. That's what union employees have been doing for years now.
What I do believe though is that at this point, if BART union employees and SEIU 1021 REALLY are intent on pushing through another strike when push comes to shove and if they want to issue a PR message indicating they sympathize with what BART riders go through when the riders hate the BART unions' guts, how are they going to gain support this time around?
That's why I believe that in order to avoid BART strikes in the future or any problems leading to these strikes that the energy should be focused on going after the real target: BART Management.
The problem with BART Management is that for many years now, it's become increasingly slow to make long-term solutions to problems or have real understanding of how to think outside-the-box in resolving the problems.
I'll run down a list of what I've seen a real problem with BART and how it's been run:
1) BART conducts every later on I believe at 9 pm regular track maintenance and during commute time. Nowadays, if you ride BART in the evenings, you'll notice it's actually more crowded than usual even after rush hour. However, on Tuesday evening after I got done with class in my MBA program, I had spend at least 40 minutes or so minutes on BART when it normally would take 25-30 minutes: All because of track maintenance. Now track maintenance is important but doing it during operation is irritating to BART riders and quite frankly, people just want to go home and rest at this point in the evening.
2) BART Police - It took the unjust Oscar Grant shooting at Fruitvale Station for the Bay Area to wake up and for police to start taking action and disciplining police officers but even so, issues still haven't been full resolved.
3) BART Management fails to address safety issues raised by BART employees, as reported by SEIU 1021 in a September 11, 2013 post:
San Francisco – BART workers today called on the transit agency’s management to bargain in good faith over safety issues, fix dozens of unresolved safety complaints, and stop fighting state regulators’ attempts to enforce safety laws at BART.4) BART needs to focus on informing its riders not just when elevators are out of service but when escalators are out of service. No offense but as someone who rides BART almost every day, I NEVER see anyone using elevators, except maybe a tiny portion. It's obvious that elevators are used by disabled riders but they use the escalators too, maybe more than the elevators from what I've seen.
Workers at the transit agency say BART’s refusal to address their safety concerns is a major sticking point in an ongoing labor dispute that idled trains for four-and-a-half days in July and could lead to another strike at the end of a state-imposed cooling off period that expires in October.
“BART management says that safety issues are a ‘smokescreen’ at the bargaining table,” said Roxanne Sanchez, President of SEIU 1021, the union representing BART more than 1,400 BART maintenance workers, technicians and professional employees. “In reality, frontline workers have repeatedly identified safety problems that the district refuses to fix; instead of addressing these life and death issues, they’ve hired high-priced attorneys to fight safety laws.”
Over the past 10 years, state safety regulators repeatedly fined the Bay Area Rapid Transit District for directing district workers without electrician training or certification to work near the electrified third rail. Instead of reforming its procedures, to comply with state law, BART management has responded by authorizing more than $300,000 for attorneys to fight state safety regulators.
Furthermore, BART needs to get BETTER elevators and a whole new system. Same goes for its escalators and as I was heading to exit North Berkeley BART station last night, I noticed the escalator was out of service and being completely reworked/rebuilt. Think if the elevator at North Berkeley BART was out of service and a disabled rider had to climb the stairs.
5) BART needs to be pushed to set the target date on replacing its rail cars and track system by 2017 or 2018, not 2020 or 2022 as it envisions. Call me crazy but as it currently stands, the cars in BART are dirty as hell and look roughed up after all the years they've been in service. In addition, there have been frequent BART delays because of "track maintenance," "computer problems," "tracking problems," etc. Whenever BART announcers asks folks for their patience, I can tell you, no BART rider is patient, unless they have absolutely no agenda.
All BART Management needs is business savvy skills and the art of negotiation.
6) BART does NOT enforce its no food or drink policy. Never has. While BART announcements are made all the time on folks getting fined for eating or drinking, I have yet to see anyone get scolded for this. I see folks eating on BART all the time and while I think they're absolutely clueless, no one goes and stops them.
7) Telling BART patrons and riders not to enter the first car of a train with a bike when there's a bike rack there. Ever noticed this? *face palm*
8) No more nickle 'n' diming BART riders by continuing to raise fares but not offering additional parking spaces/garages in return. This is a big effing deal for folks.
8) We need to know the BART Board of Directors before we vote for them. Note how when you vote for a candidate for BART Board of Directors you know absolutely nothing about them?
Oh and also, according to the East Bay Express, BART's lead negotiator with the unions has been historically anti-labor:
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.Anyway, as I've said before, I'm not looking to take sides right now on the BART strike. I just want long-term answers to fix BART in general so perhaps maybe BART union employees and SEIU 1021 can have better relations with management.
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.
You know something's fishy when both BART Management and union employees report salary numbers as being completely different.
What's your view?