Suit Against BART focuses on Health, Safety Issues

Workers claim that failure to bargain in good faith violates state law and imperils the health and safety of BART workers, riders

(Oakland) BART’s two biggest unions filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court this morning, charging that representatives of BART’s elected Board of Directors are categorically refusing to bargain in good faith over worker safety, in addition to other violations of state law.

The action comes less than a week before the contract deadline this Sunday, June 30.

Leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and SEIU Local 1021 presented their documentation at BART headquarters prior to legal filing. BART Police figures show more than 2400 serious crimes committed on the transit system over the last three years – in five stations alone. There were more than 1,000 physical attacks on riders in the same time period, and more than 100 physical attacks on BART employees. Many of these crimes are so serious that BART police are required to report them to the FBI, as they include homicide, rape, physical battery, aggravated assault, and serious property crimes.

In response to these figures, negotiators for BART’s elected Board of Directors stated last week, “We’re not interested.”

Documents in the suit cite numerous examples of unfair labor practices – each a violation of BART’s legal obligation to bargain in good faith with its unions for a new contract. BART negotiators have categorically refused to bargain over safety matters that could not be more important to the workers, and the riders of this otherwise great transit system.

This unlawful refusal to bargain comes after an already long list of unfair labor practices, including:

· BART has embarked on a wholesale restructuring of its workers compensation system that treats workers as adversaries, and is refusing to bargain over the subject. This is particularly galling, as the Unions are proposing an alternative, collaborative system that could save the District millions each year and facilitate getting workers the care they need so that they can get back to work.

· BART unilaterally imposed a two-tier pension for new hires, and plans to cut new employees’ pay by 6.25% despite a projected operating surplus for the system of $125 million a year for the next ten years. BART’s front line workers do not receive Social Security.

· BART also unlawfully delayed providing union representatives with OSHA reports reflecting worker injuries. The reason is obvious; workers who have been working harder, and longer hours than ever before, are getting injured at work at increasing rates.

· BART is refusing to provide critical information necessary to bargain, including medical plan enrollment information for our members.

· BART is making demands for over $150 million in cuts to worker compensation – seeking concessions that it does not even need. BART has refused to give workers their real budget that accounts for capital projects that have actually been approved. Instead, it has given the unions a fictional “rubber budget” on which it is basing outrageous proposals to cut workers’ pay by 10% a year.

These unfair labor practices compound the effect of the District’s refusal to honor contractually binding practices regarding bargaining itself. BART delayed bargaining by refusing to release the Unions’ bargaining team members from their regular duties and schedules for 6 weeks after bargaining was supposed to begin so that BART could wait for its $399,000 negotiator to take over its bargaining team – all to create a sense of crisis at the table and delay the proceedings.

“It’s difficult to negotiate improvements with politicians who won’t even admit the most obvious problems,” says Antonette Bryant, president of ATU 1555. “First they tried to create a phony budget crisis to justify increased fares for riders and wage cuts for workers, and now they’re ignoring a mounting wave of violence against workers and riders. All we want is a fair wage and a safe workplace. That’s not too much to ask.”