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

BART workers pay nothing (that's right - NOTHING) to pay for their generous pensions!!

And they get healthcare cover for an their entire family - no matter how large - for just $92 a month.

So yeah, you bet management want to rein in that unsustainable gravy train. I want my fares and taxes to go to improved service and not benefits far in excess of what the rest of us get.

Screw the strikers - management should stand firm.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 10:32 am

The wages for train operators and station agents are between 25 and 30 an hour. it is all in back and white. That is not some incredible amount of compensation in the Bay Area. The jobs are difficult with incredible pressure. Walk a mile in their shoes before you cast stones.

The pension and medical schemes really benefit the upper management, not the rank and file. Lifetime medical after 5 years does nothing for someone making 25 bucks an hour, however for the management they come in for 5 years without a care for the longevity or sustainability of the program/system, leave after 5 years with full medical for life and a 25-40k pension a year (yes for only five years work). Meantime the rank and file work 20 years for less than 25k in pension and no social security.

It is not the gravy train many perceive it to be. BART rank and file make less today than they did 8 years ago. BART wants them to take an effective 20% pay cut and have an unlimited downside on medical coverage from new contract day one. This means in 4 years the rank and file could be making the effective equivalent of 15 dollars an hour, or less.

The unions have proposed making retiree medical at 15 years vs. 5 years. The long terms savings are calculated to be mid to upper hundreds of millions. BART mgt says no. They don't want to give up their perks, bonuses or 200K+ salaries or the old boys and girls network to give their cronies free medical for life for drinking coffee and causing labor disputes every short four- five year period.

Insult to injury is that BART may have hired the perceived equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan (Hock) to be the lead negotiator. Not only did BART back door 400k of cash for Mr. Hock, a possible waste fraud and abuse of public funds issue that should result in Directors and GM/AGMs being investigated/prosecuted and having pensions revoked, it is also probably the largest EEOC violation in California since the mid 1950s.

How do you think union membership of color feels when the lead BART negotiators' own team settled a lawsuit on the basis of their comment to the effect of "wanting to do to the blacks what Hitler did to the Jews" ? its like sitting across the negotiating table from people with white robes and pillowcases with the eyes cut out over their heads.

All membership irrespective of color or preference is outraged. The public should be too. Mr. Hock has no comment which is not surprising.

Instead BART has chosen to try to divide the union membership based on race wedges and lies if an effort to break them. Their tactics have backfired. It has brought the membership closer together for truth, accountability, sustainability, social and professional correctness.

Lastly BART want the employees to take these cuts so the costs can be used for new systems and cars with no upside. The track technology they want has not even been invented - a boondoggle of payoff programs and graft is what is sounds like.

If you go to work tomorrow and your boss says they are taking 20% of your pay today to invest in the company and when you retire you will not get a dime of it back? Not a reasonable proposal. If you would not take that offer then why should the rank and file at BART?

Leadership is broken at BART HQ. There is no accountability and the management has failed to engage their employees and make a positive change for the taxpayers, ridership and employees.

It is time to replace the BART board of directors and GM/AGMs with true leaders. Unless this is done the cycle will continue and the needless costs will be born by the taxpayers and ridership.

Good luck.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

and employee healthcare contributions should bear some vague relationship to liabilities.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

What BS. Some of your points are good, but they are overwhelmed by BS claims.

Posted by Richmondman on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 12:58 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

where I listened to SEIU hacks string that shit together in person.

It's a learned skill to froth on using these buzzwords and going from one topic to the next, baffle em with bullshit. I suspect it is a union employee. It touches all the bases of a studies major/conspiracy kook who got a job with the union.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

It took a couple of searches but we come up with this

http://www.transportworkers.org/node/503

That mixed with your rambling...

"Insult to injury is that BART may have hired the perceived equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan (Hock) to be the lead negotiator."

"How do you think union membership of color feels when the lead BART negotiators' own team settled a lawsuit on the basis of their comment to the effect of "wanting to do to the blacks what Hitler did to the Jews" ?"

...is just amazing. Reading around about the guy he sounds like a real a-hole, but that strung together idiocy you posted, true tin foil hat shit.

If a person settles a lawsuit they are responsible for the claims made in the lawsuit? You must have been a hit in your studies classes with that loser/conspiracy addled attitude.

What will the union membership feel? Probably what you tell them when coaching them down at the union offices?

Posted by matlock on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

It is time to blow up the union and start over with Bart management....nothing is sustainable in the current structure.

Posted by Realist on Jun. 28, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

Ill work for less. The news at 11 pm just said the average worker makes 80k a year with benefits. We should all be so lucky. What about teachers and day care workers that make 25k if their lucky. How hard is it to take money and make change....

Posted by Guest on Jun. 28, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

"Lifetime medical after 5 years does nothing for someone making 25 bucks an hour"???!

C'mon, no one gets lifetime time medical anymore. That benefit is worth its weight in gold. To be able to retire and not have to worry about healthcare until you get to medicare is priceless!

Personnel insurance plans in your 50's can cost $1200-$1800 a month out of pocket.

To not pay into your pension nowadays is rapidly becoming unheard of. The state has done a complete pension overhaul.

Be happy with what you have, you have way more than most.

Posted by Really on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 10:29 am

Walk a mile in their shoes????? I worked midnight shifts at Walmart after my shift I would go put on my boots and do construction for 7 hours. Never making anything near thirty dollars an hour NOT to mention I did this attending SJSU. I did not bitch or cry because I was happy to have a JOB. You have to work hard to get anywhere, there are plenty of people who would love to take these strikers jobs. I did mine for education, some people need to do it to support a family, and some need it to survive. Take a walk in the shoes of the people who need to get 30+ miles to their job and might lose their job to this strike.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 02, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

Looks like you are jealous of others in that you were too stupid to come across a union job yourself that pays well with good benefits and job security, and now you bitch about it.

Posted by anon on Jul. 02, 2013 @ 7:10 pm

What are your sources for the staggering information you state in your comment? I'm not on the side of the strikers or the management - I'm on the side of the truth.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 05, 2013 @ 11:04 am

BS! $15 an hour? C'mon.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 03, 2013 @ 8:59 am

So you are one of the Union Representatives? The level of skill to push the go button on a train is pathetic. At $25 per hour; employees are overpaid. I agree that safety issues are unacceptable. We need to protect BART operators and patrons. End the negotiations there.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 13, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

this is simply a troll barricade

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by barrier on Oct. 13, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

" Lifetime medical after 5 years does nothing for someone making 25 bucks an hour, "

Ask any retired person about the value of this perk and I think you'd modify this statement. I do agree that 15 years is much more palatable. 5 years is better than what the morons in Congress get.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 18, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

We have ObamaCare now. Liberals claim that is great, so why isn't it great enough for these ex-employees?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 18, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

I'm inclined to believe the poster defending the unions, but if you don't, look up some information before you just trash the claims. What is the average pay for a BART worker? What is the median yearly income? How much does upper management make? Do they get severance packages? other perks (like cars, travel allowances, conference subsidies)? What are the average and median pension yearly payments? How do they relate to full-time pay? Does everyone get the same health plan? What kind of a plan is it?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know something about "negotiating" with management. When it's time to make cuts (a decision that is up to management), personnel costs are the first place they look, because it's always a big line item in the budget. Without a union, you have no power. With one, you have a little -- not much, but a little. If you are upper management, of course, none of this applies. Now your job is to control information: hide the important budget numbers or, if you can't, obscure them; rearrange the books (and especially "projections" for the future) to show a "crisis"; and, of course, protect upper management pay and perks.

Unions aren't perfect, but they are the only lever rank and file workers have against management power. If you are anti-union -- even if you think you are also anti-management -- then you are your boss's (and his or her boss's, on up the line) best friend.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

the main determinant of what is reasonable, and it is not reasonable for anyone to have a "free" pension these days. Nor for healthcare benefit contributions to be totally unrelated to risk.

That has to be fixed.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

That's money they worked for. During contract negotiations, public employees agreed to lower pay in exchange for better benefits. It's part of their salary.

Posted by anon on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 10:12 am

continue the farce of people having free pensions. They need to join the real world.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 10:26 am

Bart employees enjoy top cash(non-healthcare, pension) compensation for transit workers in the United States!

Posted by Realist on Jun. 28, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

This is the biggest crock that unions hacks try to fly. That their free pensions are a result of lowered market wages. Anyone here think BART worker salaries are too low?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 7:58 am

pensions and healthcare boondoggle. And of course there is those 8 weeks of "sick" leave every year too.

Screw them.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 8:11 am

The real difference here is that BART workers work for the public, not a private, for profit enterprise. Perhaps going back to Civil Service rules would work better than Union vs Management.

Posted by Richmondman on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 10:03 am

Lots of good public disclosure on BART employee salaries:

http://www.contracostatimes.com/bart-salaries?appSession=51955394780773&...

The average pay is over $110,000 a year. And that's just the start.

Employees pay $92 a month for full family healthcare benefits (I'm paying $1,200 a month for myself and two dependents, so stop whining BARTies).

BART and all public employees are the only people left (besides the 1%-ers) with defined-benefit pension plans, and these have guaranteed 7% returns annually, even though the stock market has had an average 2% return since 2000. This is why the BART pension fund is terribly underfunded.

Your average BART rider, making a middle-class wage ($60,000 a year?) is not going to be very sympathetic toward coddled BART employees living at twice their riders' wages, and getting nice pension spikes when they retire at age 60.

Count your blessings, BART employees. And start paying for some of your own healthcare and pensions like the rest of us working stiffs.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

We must all shred the social contract and be miserable together!

Posted by anon on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

Normally, I would agree with your sentiment. But BART and other public employees are sucking up money that would otherwise be used for other public services.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 6:48 am

CalTrain. We should invest more in BART and less in other transit options.

That said, the pay and benefits packages these workers on are insane, have essentially haven't changed since the inception of the system 40-50 years ago. Their work contracts and practices need to be significantly updated, and management's proposals here are actually very modest in that regard.

Therefore the strike is completely unreasonable and the workers must be slapped down here.

Insofar as BART sucks up too much money and there are savings, then that money should go back to the taxpayers rather than wasted on other public sector services which sadly share the exact same faults and problems.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 7:11 am

did you also read that the salary quoted was the average of union, NON union and management?

must have slipped by you.

When you're already anti-"something" - nothing will change you mind - you'll read what you want to read.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 9:18 am

classes of employee. And that is before the outrageous value of all those free benefits and time off.

You're going to have to work a lot harder than that to generate any sympathy here.

Posted by anon on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 9:33 am

Here is a typical case from the public database noted above:

Lyles Lamont A Operations Foreworker C-Line Rail Operations $75,829 overtime = $53,514 other = $8,149 TOTAL = $137,491

On top of that, Lamont gets full healthcare for $92 a month, and he's got a nice fat compounded pension plan waiting in the wings.

Are we supposed to feel sorry for these people?

Posted by Troll the XIV on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who had been doing a little homework on this.
And he actually ordered me breakfast simply because I found
it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!
! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk about this
subject here on your web page.

Posted by GSA on Sep. 09, 2013 @ 2:54 am

Check out the list. I only see 2 out of 170 employees listed there who make less than $120,000 a year.

Public employees have it soooo good in California.

I'm a big supporter of unions in the private sector. But I have come to realize that public-sector employees are running the show in California government and are beholden to no one but themselves. Their underfunded pensions are going to keep the state in the red forever unless we do something about it.

Tax revenues are increasingly being directed toward keeping the pension pot fed...to the detriment of public schools, roads, public parks, and the poor

Posted by Troll the XIV on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

The search function is your friend. try the ">>" at the bottom...

Look who makes the cash by job. 3400+ jobs (albeit long outdated data).

Yes, you are wrong but that is OK, we want you to be informed and we are all friends.

The CC Times is not exactly the "go to" place for accurate info, just saying...

Cheers.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

The telling BART stat is BART employees average FORTY unscheduled absences a year - I mean, that's absurd and these people are going on strike?? They don't pay a dime for DEFINED BENEFIT pensions.

I love that the Chronicle opined today that they didn't know the teacher's state pension fund is underfunded by $4 billion a year until after the budget was completed...

It is a giant scam and the fallout will be ugly.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

taxpayers will not be willing to pay ever more taxes just to feed the pensions of the greedy entitled public sector workers.

So that means endless firings and service cuts to pay the pensions for an ever-smaller number of selfish assholes.

These BART operators should be fired if they go out on strike, and new contracts be written on affordable and sustainable terms for the new hires.

Posted by anon on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 5:41 am

Those FORTY unscheduled absences each year are the reason BART employees make so much in overtime pay. Look at the database. Everyone is making at least $20,000 in overtime pay.

You see, if you call in sick, BART has to call in a different employee and pay him time-and-a-half.

It's a great scam.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 6:37 am

employers, allowing scams and abuses, unaffordable pay and benefits, near total job security, and rigid working practices.

Much of this is due to the fact that the politicians and managers themselves enjoy the very same benefits and privileges.

We the people pay for all of this even while our own pay, benefits and job security has been eroded. It's scandalous and we should quite simply refuse to pay for any of it.

Posted by anon on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 6:54 am

True. The old adage was that working for the government paid less than in the private sector in exchange for job security.

But now, public-sector works have better pay, better pensions, and better healthcare plans than the private sector, plus the better job security.

And I would applaud that, it wouldn't bother me, except for the fact that all of this money being fed into pension/overtime schemes means more money has to be taken away from people who really deserve it: the poor, our underfunded school systems, etc.

Posted by Anonymous on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 9:42 am

Most of the abuse has taken place at the top, particularly in the field of public safety. In fact, the average public worker draws a very modest pension. The reason our schools are underfunded is because the right wing has lobbied successfully for years for lower taxes for the rich. This means less money for schools, libraries, health care, etc. Instead of recognizing the problem, they find it more convenient to scapegoat teachers, etc. You get what you pay for.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 9:57 am

abusing the system - that goes for all pay grades. Everyone should pay something and that is particularly true in the public sector, because the people paying for that (us) are also having to pay for our own pensions and healthcare.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 10:18 am

That's money they worked for. As part of contract negotiations, public employees agreed to lower salaries in exchange for better benefits. It's money they've earned.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 10:36 am

No, public employees are the only people left (aside from Fortune 500 CEO types) that have defined-benefit pension plans.

They are paid under pension schemes developed in the 1990s that guarantee 6-8% COMPOUNDED interest payment increases annually on their pension plans. The assumption, at the time, was that stock markets would rise 6-8% a year forever. But the stock market has been largely flat since 2000...but the pension obligations get ever more bloated.

Underfunded pension obligations are and will become an ever worse burden to taxpayers and the general public. This is the elephant in the room that politicians are afraid to deal with.

BART is merely trying to address this problem in a small way. Employees should cover at least some of their pension/healthcare obligations. It's not very much to ask.

Posted by Anon on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

that this can resolve itself. If something cannot logically continue, then it will not continue. We are merely quibbling about how the system will fail. These are the only options:

1) We continue to pay these pension and healthcare liabilities in faull, but make massive cuts of staff and services to pay for it. Among other things, this will engender a massive generational war, as the young workers getting axed deeply resent the senior workers who live like Kings on their dime.

2) New staff go onto a strict DC scheme while the old guys carry on gorging at thee trough. Same problems as (1) above.

3) At the demand of the voters, government rips up the pensions contracts and rewrites the pensions.

4) Municipal bankruptcy, as we have already seen in Vallejo, Stockton, Harrisburg and Detroit is now almost there. Massive layoffs and BK judges do (3) above.

5) The workers actually make the same sacrifices that the rest of us already have, and stop being so damn selfish.

Posted by anon on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

BART has to pay out salaries, but pensions are merely a future obligation, and it is always easier to agree to money later than money now. I'd prefer to see workers securing their own pensions with their own money, rather than hoping that tje taxpayers and farepayers will bail them out later.

Things that are free are not appreciated, and everyone should have some skin in the game, and should have made some sacrifices.

It is more tax-efficient to contribute a dollar to a pension plan than it is to get paid a dollar.

It's simply not true that these operators get "lower salaries". Some of them make six figures with all their overtime scams. The truth is that they get higher pay, better benefits and more job security than the private sector, and all on our dime.

Posted by anon on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

True enough. In my view, the problem is that politicians in the Democratic Party are afraid to make public employees face reality.

Politicians are always reaching for the next rung on the ladder (the school board member wants to be a city councilman, the city councilman wants to be mayor, the mayor want to be in congress, etc.), so their priority is to win the next election. And to do that, they must make promises to the voters and ignore major problems that loom down the road.

Their thinking: I'll be a congressman or a senator by the time this pension nightmare hits the fan. So I don't care.

Politicians will always kick the can down the road. They don't want to deal with pension-bankruptcy because it is a future nightmare.

On the other hand, BART managers need to face the fiscal cliff just ahead. And asking their employees to cover a small share of their own pensions and healthcare needs isn't asking for much.

Posted by Guest lecturer on Jun. 27, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

Schwarzenegger was a Republican so stop the political angle. They're both guilty.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 11:33 am

Truly no matter if someone doesn't know after that its up to other visitors that they will help, so here it takes place.

Posted by meladerm on Jul. 06, 2013 @ 7:54 am

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