BART Unions End Unfair Labor Practice Strike
Tentative Agreement Reached with Bay Area Rapid Transit
After more than five months of contentious negotiations, BART’s largest unions reached a tentative agreement with the transit agency October 21 and announced the end to a four-day unfair labor practice strike. SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555 issued statements after the tentative agreement was reached.
“Tonight the hard working men and women who keep the Bay Area moving, can go back to work making BART the most efficient and successful system in the country,” said John Arantes, BART Chapter President of SEIU 1021. “We understand that the strike has been an incredible inconvenience to Bay Area commuters. BART workers were raising issues at the table that are important to all workers, and we thank the thousands of Bay Area men and women who supported our fight for a contract that puts the safety of riders and workers first.”
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said, “We have reached a tentative agreement with BART Management on our outstanding contract issues. We look forward to going back to work and continuing our efforts to keep the Bay Area moving. We did not want to strike and are glad we have a tentative agreement that works for all parties.”
Des Patten, President of SEIU 1021’s BART Professional Chapter, said “Let us be clear that our commitment to improving the safety at BART doesn’t end with these negotiations. With this agreement, we expect that General Manager Grace Crunican will continue the dialogue with its unions on working conditions and health and safety at BART.” Patten said the deal, “preserves important workplace protections that enable workers to continue working with management to improve a rapidly-growing system.”
The agreement provides for reasonable wage increases, a compromise on pension and healthcare costs, in addition to work rule changes that allow for innovation and input from workers, according to a statement from SEIU 101. The tentative agreement must be voted on and ratified by members of the unions and the BART Board of Directors, before it takes effect.
ATU represents train operators and station agents; SEIU Local 1021 represents more than 1,400 mechanics, maintenance workers and other staff at BART. The 2,500 SEIU and ATU workers were forced on strike October 18 after BART management made a last minute proposal to change work rules, which the unions rejected, after both sides had agreed to the financial terms of the contract. Bryant said that management had “demanded new sweeping powers to endanger and exploit our workers—all of this at the last minute.”
AFSCME Local 3993, which represents 200 supervisory staff, did not strike but asked its members to support the ATU and SEIU strike.
All three unions emphasized for months that the safety of the workforce and the public was a major concern. That concern was highlighted on October 19, when a contract worker and a member of AFSCME were struck and killed by a BART train while inspecting train tracks in Walnut Creek. An investigation into the incident by the National Traffic Safety Board revealed that the train was operated by a management worker being trained. The NTSB investigation is ongoing.
On October 20, BART unions offered a new proposal to BART management aimed at ending the strike and getting the parties back into mediation to finish bargaining a contract. The unions said the new counterproposal allows for the continued use of new technology in the workplace, but protects workers from changes in work rules that would lead to unsafe conditions. The unions said they will insist on retaining work rules protect their members from workplace accidents, like the one that occurred October 19, and that safeguard the riding public during normal revenue hours.
“BART workers today are grieving for the two engineers who lost their lives,” said Roxanne Sanchez, president of SEIU Local 1021. AFSCME 3993 spokesperson Kevin Brown and ATU’s Antonette Bryant also expressed their condolences to the families of the workers.
“The job of a BART worker can be very dangerous. That’s why we receive a lot of training and it’s why there are a lot of work rules,” said Saul Almanza, who trains workers on wayside safety procedures and protocols. “Work rules protect our members from the type of accidents that happened yesterday.”
Sanchez and Almanza said BART union members would welcome and support the involvement of the NTSB in conducting its investigation and making recommendations for preventing similar accidents in the future. SEIU 1021 offered the assistance of their own members, who include the personnel responsible for training BART employees on safety procedures. “Workers should have a say in developing the rules and procedures that keep them safe,” said John Arantes, president of the SEIU 1021 BART Chapter. “But management has proposed a system by which they could change the rules unilaterally and that’s reckless, radical and wrong.”
The unions indicated that they had warned BART management repeatedly in writing about allowing non-ATU personnel to operate trains. On October 7, SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555 filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Court to block BART management from using non-ATU personnel to train replacement drivers.
In announcing the end to the strike, ATU’s Bryant thanked the members of SEIU 1021, AFSCME 3993, and other union members who stood with the BART strikers. AFSCME Local 3993 reached a tentative agreement with BART as Labor went to press Oct. 23.
For more information and updates, check http://www.wemakebartwork.com/ and http://www.seiu1021.org/category/where-we-work/special-districts/bay-area-rapid-transit-district-bart/
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski, speaking at a rally for BART workers at the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland October 18, with SEIU Local 1021 East Bay Regional Vice President Gary Jimenez and AFSCME Local 3993 President Patricia Schuchardt.