BART board approves labor contract, minus the district's "mistake" UPDATED


The BART Board of Directors has voted 8-1, with conservative young Director Zakhary Mallett in dissent, to approve a hard-won contract with its unions, after removing Section 4.8, the paid family leave section that the district says was inserted by mistake. The motion also directed management to negotiate a settlement over that issue with its unions, which have already approved the contracts and now must decide whether they are willing to do so again without that provision or whether the possibility of another BART strikes is once again looming.

Shortly after the meeting, SEIU Local 1021 Executive Director Pete Castelli issued the statement saying, “We’re disappointed that the BART Board of Directors had decided not to fulfill their commitment to the workers and the riders by approving contracts without the provision on family medical leave. The unions have voted on and ratified these contracts in their entirety.”

He accused the district of over-inflating the cost estimates of the family leave provision and said the unions were willing to discuss it, but the district instead chose “to prolong the process and hold the fate of the riders, the workers, and the Bay Area in the balance.”

“Right now we are considering all options, meeting with workers who have ratified this contract, and working to find a way to reach a resolution to BART management's alleged mistake in the agreement it made with its workers,” he said.

After meeting in closed session for about two hours this morning, the BART board opened the meeting up around 11:45am to discuss and vote on the contract. Vice President Joel Keller opened with a motion to remove Section 4.8 from the contract, approve the rest, and direct management to negotiate with the unions.

Mallett, the 25-year-old newbie who lives in unincorporated West Contra Costa County but whose Dist. 7 includes part of San Francisco, spoke first: “Even before this hiccup, I was not in the position to support this contract. I find it too costly.”

But he was the only one to take that stance, with the rest of the directors calling the underlying contract a fair compromise, even if all said they couldn’t support the paid family leave provision that would add anywhere between $4 million and $44 million to a contract that was already going to cost the district an additional $67 million.

Director Gail Murray even chided Mallett’s certitude given his age and inexperience, noting that the union had given up raises for years when BART had budget deficits, and now that the district is running surpluses, it’s reasonable to give workers raises that amount to about 2 percent per year for four years, particularly given the union also gave on their benefit packages.

“Our employees kept the system going...They’re the reason why we keep 40-year-old cars still running,” Murray said, later adding, “To say this contract is not a good contract is wrong.”

The rest of the board agreed, even why acknowledging it is more than they hoped to pay given the district capital needs and aggressive expansion plans.

“We’re probably paying more for this than we anticipated we would pay, and labor is probably going up more than they want to, but that’s the nature of collective bargaining,” Keller said, who also began what turned into a chorus of criticism for how district negotiators signed off on a provision the board never agreed to.

“We ended on a sloppy note and that’s regretable,” Keller said, pledging that if he’s elected president next month — an ascension that is customary for the vice president — he plans to lauch a full investigation into what happened.

“I’m pained that we put ourselves in such adversarial positions with each other and that we lost the lives of two employees,” Director John McPartland said of the protracted labor negotiations and the fatalities that occurred while the unions were on strike Oct. 19. He called the contract “more than fair and equitible.”

Director James Fang, who represents western San Francisco, sounded the strongest criticisms of BART management and negotiators. “Yes, it was a mistake, but nobody has come forward and said ‘there was a mistake and I’m responsible,” Fang said, later adding, “The ones who signed this must be held to account.”

Fang then went further, albeit without specifics, when he said, “Every bit of management advice we’ve received has not worked out to the district’s best interests.” Given the looming investigations by the California Legislature and National Transportation Safety Board of BART culpability in the Oct. 19 deaths — the result of management preparing to break the strike by training replacement drivers and contesting longstanding demands by state regulators to make safety improvements that likely would have prevented the tragedy — Fang’s comment could ultimately prove to be a huge understatement.

Director Robert Raburn echoed Fang’s calls for accountability: “I’m still not clear on how that [contract provision] arrived and it hasn’t been accounted for by anyone at the district who said ‘I am responsible.’”

But he also said that the provision was clearly an error and not something arrived at through the negotiations: “Both parties agreed on a $67 million package and we should keep that intact because it’s fair.”

Reached by the Guardian this afternoon while union leadership was conferring to plan next steps, SEIU Local 1021 Political Director Chris Daly told us, “We are about as up in the air as we’ll ever been.”

As a first step, he said the unions are consulting with their attorneys on the legality of today’s vote. “We think the action might be an unfair labor practice and illegal under labor law,” Daly said.

He also called it “unlikely” that union leadership would simply submit the board-revised contract to an up-or-down vote by union membership, saying that he doesn’t think it would be approved.

And Daly echoed the concerns expressed by several BART directors about how this mistake happened and why nobody has taken responsibility or been held accountable: “If I were on that board, I’d have the general manager’s head, there’s no two ways about it.”  

UPDATE 11/22: Today BART’s largest unions, SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555, issued the following joint statement on the BART Board's recent vote regarding whether to ratify the labor contracts:

“We consider the Board's actions to be unprecedented and illegitimate, and we’re considering our next steps, including possible legal action.

"The BART Board of Directors has disregarded the vote of more than two thousand BART workers and has chosen to subvert the collective bargaining process, and we take their actions seriously.”


honest mistake. The moral hazard of allowing workers an extra 6 weeks paid leave if only they can fabricate a family "crisis" seems evident to anyone not ideologically hung up.

And given the unions got far more than they deserved to get, they should kiss the ground that management walk on.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

Why do you hate families and children so?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

farepayers and taxpayers of the Bay Area who will be hurt by the union insisting on retaining what was obviously a mistake.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

How will the fare payers and tax payers be hurt? I am a tax payer and a fare payer and I do not feel hurt.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

then expect higher fares and taxes to cover that loss, which will come out of your pocket (unless you don't ride BART and never pay any sales tax).

Or maybe service will be cut or the trains will just be less safe and not maintained as well.

Stuff isn't free.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

And you trust BART's estimates, especially ones they post in press releases – despite the fact that since it is a press release, they can say whatever they want – because...? (Also, it should be noted that BART has been doing a poor job with safety as noted in the article, and the unions had nothing to do with it)

Say what you will, but you have just as much an ideological hang-up as the people you claim are whining. Quit hiding under the "taxpayer" façade, say you're anti-union for whatever reason, and be done with it.

Posted by ??? on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

and all you had to do is conjure up some "family emergency" then do you think that maybe a certain element of moral hazard might apply? Far more workers will simply regard this as a more than doubling of their paid vacation just for lying.

So yes, BART's numbers may well be accurate given the track record of what are arguably the greediest workers in the Bay Area.

Give them nothing.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

That's the same whiny shit that the Chamber of Commerce said when Clinton passed the crumb that is the FMLA. As usual, the sky did not fall, corporate complaining was for naught.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

So it doesn't get abused that much. Paid FMLA would get abused and is very expensive, which is why even the Dems thought that was a bad idea.

It cannot be allowed here.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 7:50 am

And the Chamber whined, bitched, moaned and caterwauled that even Clinton's tepid unpaid FMLA would cause the sky to fall. The sky did not fall.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 8:04 am

have been reflected in lower tax revenues, leading to cuts in services that people like you value.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 23, 2013 @ 9:19 am

Who are out to bilk the public by extorting huge unsustainable fat greedy packages taking advantage of the real heroes of the bay area - the people who ride BART to their jobs every day and don't try to extort money from their neighbors and friends

Posted by Guest. Allen on Nov. 24, 2013 @ 1:01 am

BART workers should have the right to indefinite, paid time off in the event of any family "crisis" no matter its length or the employee's time with the agency. We as a society deserve no less.

Indefinite paid time off now!!!

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

Six weeks is indefinite?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

That's a crowning principle of union negotiation. Wages and benefits always increase. 6 weeks will go to 8 then 12 then 24 and on and on - eventually full-time paid "family crisis" leave will become a standard SEIU demand for all public employees. You seriously believe the union won't ask for more the next time around if this is allowed? Or that other unions won't demand the exact same thing for their members?

Maybe they can get it in retirement too. Perhaps it can be willed to descendants in perpetuity as well.

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

This contract disproves your statement. As Director Murray noted today, for 40 years, BART workers would get retiree health benefits after five years of on the job, and this contract moves that back to 15 years. Similarly, it also makes workers pay a significant amount of money into what was once a fully funded pension. In this Age of Austerity, even union workers are constantly being forced to make compromises on their standard of living, something that the wealthy in this country are adamantly refusing to do, even at the price of the health and safety of the public and the planet. If you must point fingers, point them at the real culprits in this society, and that ain't the workers.   

Posted by steven on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

contract was a great win for the union.

And you're now trying to present it as a great loss? And only six weeks paid time off every year will remedy that?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

No, I think it's probably a fair contract, something arrived at only after the district dropped its hardball tactics after killing two workers and realizing at that point offering replacement service to break the strike it triggered was no longer a viable option. And if anyone doubts this narrative, just wait for the NTSB report, which is likely to find the district was negligent in ignoring union and regulator warnings not to train replacement drivers and continue using the dangerous "simple approval" process.  

Posted by steven on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 10:36 am

Let's recap the events of the past several months: killing two workers, hiring an expensive and incompetent union busting negotiator, reneging on a contract negotiated by said union buster, messing up the operations of the train control system and costing the Bay Area economy millions, and these management clowns can be trusted to oversee multi ton trains careening through the transbay tube under meters of of water at 80MPH?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 11:05 am

There will be quick executions after a fair trial.

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 11:31 am

I believe in due process and oppose capital punishment, but if management is found to be criminally negligent in these deaths then perhaps someone should face some charges. In fact, I think people should bear more personal responsibility for the decisions they make in their professional capacities. That might improve the reckless behaviors of many corporations, and the public agencies that try to emulate them. 

Posted by steven on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 11:58 am

"dropped its hardball tactics after killing two workers"

The district managers killed two workers?

Why no murder charges? Where is the outrage?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 01, 2013 @ 7:13 pm

He just hopes that his capitalist bosses don't notice long enough for him to be able to save up the down payment for a house so he can get out of his rent-controlled hovel.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 01, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

BART workers then: Gold-plated health care for life after 5 years of work

The rest of us then: Medicare after 50 years of work

BART workers now: Gold-plated health care for life after 15 years of work

The rest of us now: ?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

they already have MediCare and MediCaid?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 23, 2013 @ 9:18 am

They received the paid retirement in exchange for raises- that was not always part of the deal. So they never lost anything by forgoing raises- it was just shifted by smoke and mirrors. I'm sickened that the BART unions would now lie and say the paid leave was part of the package- what scum.

Posted by Guest. Allen on Nov. 24, 2013 @ 12:56 am

as long as workers can dream up some "family crisis".

Gee, do you think they might?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 3:48 pm


Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

Brilliant move by BART management, not good for the unions as they will have to swallow is maneuver or become the curs of the Bay Area.

Posted by Contract on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

speak for riders.

Then Daly talking about personal responsibility at the end.

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

What a cluster. The management side was incompetent, but unless the unions can point to some document, or submit an affidavit, saying this term was something that was specifically negotiated, then it does sound like a mistake and they're playing 'gotcha.'

Otherwise, all these arguments that the contracts were all voted on and ratified aren't so convincing.

Posted by The Commish on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

can walk away from it. The unions voted on it and, if the workers had rejected the deal, the unions would have walked away. So why can't management walk away?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 21, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

BART Unions should walk out now. That will generate more push for legislation prohibiting future strikes by government employees. That is the best thing that could happen.

Posted by Richmondman on Nov. 22, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

Since both workers were killed on the track (and these were long term employees) they were NOT following the rules that ONE worker be on the track and one be a lookout AWAY from the track. If both workers were hit on the track then both workers were negligent and caused their own death by not following rules. BART management are not responsibe. It is incredibly sad they died but they were responsible.

Posted by Guest. Allen on Nov. 24, 2013 @ 12:51 am

I hope the greedy "workers" do strike. See what rage they will cause.

Posted by Guest. Allen on Nov. 24, 2013 @ 12:53 am

Sharp thinikng! Thanks for the answer.

Posted by Azia on May. 13, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

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