Two workers killed by BART train the district was using on a "training run," despite safety warnings from the striking unions
Pushed to strike
The belief that BART intentionally provoked what could be a long and costly strike was widely held and expressed by union members that gathered outside the Lake Merritt BART station to picket and rally on the first day of the strike. Many of them still openly grappled with the previous day's surprising turn of events that put them in the position of going out on strike for the second time this year.
That morning on KQED's Forum program, both Trost and SEIU Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez confirmed it was the district's 11th hour demand for more authority to set work rules that caused negotiations to break down after days of intensive talks had gotten the two sides close to an agreement on the other issues.
BART officials publicly cast the work rule issue as about the district's ability to modernize, citing how the district is still using fax machines and paper pay stubs rather than fully converting to electronic communications, blaming the requirement to consult with unions on procedural changes.
An NTSB spokesperson confirms that the train was being run for training purposes at a press conference Oct. 21.
But Daly told the Guardian that Trost and Radulovich had "completely mischaracterized" the conflict, and he speculated about whether Radulovich — who must approve the contracts but hasn't been a party to the talks — was "being lied to" by BART's management team and high-priced labor consultant.
Daly and other union leaders say work rules such as requiring union approval for changing past practices related to scheduling, hours, and the kind of tasks workers perform are essential to protecting things like the eight-hour workday, worker safety, and whistleblowing and free speech rights.
"It gets to the heart of workers having a voice on the job and what a union is," Daly told us, acknowledging that "it's an inherently unpopular move" to go on strike and a decision forced on the union by the district's bargaining tactics.
"We had a basic framework understanding on the economics, but then BART illegally tied that to this work rule change on past practices," Daly said. "And what that meant for us is in order to get a reasonable economic package, we needed to swallow this poison pill."
George, a train engineer at the rally who wouldn't give us his last name, said the work rules have been developed over decades, but that they shouldn't be a barrier to modernizing.
"We have long term work contracts because we're here for the long haul and the employer is here for the long haul, so we try to work these things out," he told us, saying that the workers strongly support their union leaders and have told them, "Do not bring us back a lousy offer to vote on, do your job."
But not all BART workers feel that way, and some have supported the district's demand that the union put its "last, best, and final offer" up for a vote of the membership.
"I'm really pissed. Obviously there's been a decision in our union. I don't think the union is representing us, the [transit vehicle mechanics]. Nobody wanted to strike, not us," said Robert Earl Bright, a BART engineer/mechanic profiled in the Guardian this summer. "None of the TVMs wanted to strike. Work rules, I have no concept of them."
SEIU Local 1021 Executive Director Peter Castelli told the Guardian that he understands the concerns of workers like Bright, but that he think most members will support the decision to strike once they get more information.
"It's a fast evolving situation, with the stewards and union leadership saying 'we gotta go out.' So explaining things to our own membership takes time," Castelli told us.
Most Commented On
- I Am With You Brothers And Sisters - December 6, 2013
- The last word you typed is - December 6, 2013
- Did someone push your - December 6, 2013
- Liebe Wetzel - December 6, 2013
- Your blog made me feel that - December 6, 2013
- Defining San Francisco - December 5, 2013
- Robots can't cook the food - December 5, 2013
- Bring on the automated - December 5, 2013
- Supporting local artists & performances - December 5, 2013
- A local non-profit will chose - December 5, 2013