With the BART strike looming….
OAKLAND, CA — While BART management continues to drag out negotiations, forcing workers back to a strike, Oakland city workers are voting today on a two-year contract that includes a 12% increase in take-home pay. This comes after a long fought-battle where Oakland workers went a strike along with BART on July 1.
“The City of Oakland has suffered financially much more than BART yet understood that workers who have sacrificed in bad economic times should benefit when the economy improves,” said Pete Castelli, Executive Director of SEIU Local 1021. “Oakland workers will be voting today on a contract that reflects the hard work and sacrifices they made.”
Once it is approved, the contract includes a 3 percent raise over two years and with concessions expiring, adds up to another 9 percent increases for a total of 12 percent increase.
The City Council is expected to give final approval of the contract today. Oakland employees will end two days of voting tonight. Results are expected by 7 PM.
The employer, which boasts a sizeable surplus — but not as much as BART — once demanded healthcare and pension concessions that would have meant a loss of up to $1,200 each month from each worker. Union officials see this contract as a game changer for the region. Oakland’s contract ends six years of concessionary bargaining. Here are some of the highlights of the Tentative Agreement (TA):
SEIU 1021 released a report this week that exposes the anti-union background of lead BART negotiator Thomas Hock at a press conference held the same day Hock began a 10-day vacation just as bargaining approaches the most critical days — right before a state mediator’s 30-day extension expires on August 4.
On Monday BART informed SEIU and ATU that discussions on their general proposals, including all their economic proposals, could not even begin until Hock returned. That is, after six fruitless months at the table, the unions’ major proposals don’t even get discussed until three days before the end of the extension. And BART still refuses even to discuss the unions’ safety issues.
“Hock intentionally created the conditions for a strike by surface bargaining, a technique designed not to make progress. He used the strike to create a backlash against workers,” said SEIU 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez, noting that Hock is not available to bargain 10 of the 14 days remaining on the extension.
“We, however, are committed and will be here every day, and are asking the BART board and general manager to send someone with the authority to bargain or else they’re creating the same conditions that led to the four-day strike on July 1.”
According to the report, Hock has taken part in negotiations resulting in seven transit system strikes over the past 11 years, including a three-day transit worker strike in Austin in 2008. Hock and his companies have also been accused multiple times of harassment and discrimination based on race, gender and disability.
“We are alarmed that [BART] would have hired an individual with that track record,” Sanchez said. “This negotiation style is not welcome in the Bay Area. It is unnecessary. And to hold at ransom the public and the commuters and our community, and workers without pay, to destroy the little growth we’re having in our economic rebound, is unconscionable.”
Last week, employees of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) made national news with a four-day strike that quickly became a test of wills between BART management and the striking workers, represented by SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555. In the wake of Wisconsin, the Chicago teachers’ strike and other high-profile labor battles of recent years, the BART strike is already being seen as the next defining moment testing the strength and survival instincts of public sector unions. It is a fight we cannot afford to lose.
On Friday, both sides agreed to a state mediator’s request to extend their contracts by 30 days so that negotiations could continue and the trains — which carry 400,000 riders a day — could keep rolling.
The road ahead
The San Francisco news website Beyond Chron has reported that the unions “have already won” — by standing firm, we can only emerge with a better contract than management’s last offer. Beyond Chron may be the only publication to think so, however. On the contrary, the often biased, pro-management slant of mainstream media coverage has become a news story itself.
The media has thrown much ink and many airwaves at “greedy” workers’ wage proposals yet overwhelmingly ignored the management takeaways and other critical issues that pushed BART workers to sacrifice their paychecks, and a paid holiday, to strike:
BART’s general manager, Grace Crunican, receives $320,000 in base salary (after a $20,000 raise less than six months after starting work), and will be vested in health care for life after only two years — all while demanding further cuts from BART’s frontline workers. If BART can get away with this while in the spotlight of the national media, the rest of us are next.
We are all BART
It does not matter if you earn more or less than BART workers, or if your benefits are better or worse. BART management has shown callous indifference to both their employees and their riders:
Today it’s BART; tomorrow it’s the rest of us. For more information on how you can help BART workers win a fair contract:
SEIU 1021 members and community supporters will challenge BART leadership to a debate over their decision to approve bonuses and compensation increases to BART’s top manager.
View the Facebook Event.
Members and allies will converge on the Board of Directors meeting to speak out against BART’s decision to spend $1 million on union busting propaganda and consultants instead of bargaining in good faith.
View the Facebook Event.
Oakland, CA – Late last night, SEIU 1021, ATU, and the BART District agreed to accept the state mediators’ proposal to extend the current contract through August 4, 2013. The agreement, designed to encourage good faith bargaining, bars lockouts, strikes, and includes measures that would prevent unilateral implementation of a contract.
A Statement from Roxanne Sanchez, SEIU 1021 President:
“Today BART workers can return to working on a system that they’ve helped make one of the country’s best and get back to keeping the Bay Area moving.
We regret that BART’s high-paid, out-of-state negotiators did not share this same commitment to our communities, that they chose to stall and bargain through the media, consequently leaving hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents stranded and costing our local economy hundreds of millions of dollars. BART workers would like to assure the public that we are working diligently to quickly reach a resolution that is fair and improves safety for both riders and workers.
We thank the leadership of Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern and the work of the mediators to bring about an agreement that gives BART management the chance to reverse direction and do the right thing.”
Statement from Pete Castelli, SEIU 1021 Executive Director, on BART negotiations:
“We are happy to be back to work moving the Bay Area, but we do so knowing that BART management has raised hypocrisy to a whole new level. Management has spent taxpayer money on themselves like they were Wall Street bankers! While BART General Manager Grace Crunican pays herself $320,000/year, she refuses to adjust employee compensation to simply keep up with the cost of living here in the Bay Area.
BART management has spent a million dollars of taxpayer money paying consultants to pursue a union busting strategy based on the tactics of what anti-labor forces have done in the Midwest over the last several years. But we have news for them: the Bay Area will stand up for working people.”
Join us at 11:00 am at the Lake Merrit BART station, 8th & Oak Streets, Oakland.
The District has hardly started to engage in serious negotiations and yet it is already considering imposition – a move that would be essentially declaring war on riders and the union.
View the Facebook Event.
After a successful one-day strike where 3,500 city workers set up picket lines throughout the city, Mayor Jean Quan’s office offers dates to bargain with city employees this Friday, July 5 and Monday, July 8.
Oakland — With the ongoing BART strike as a backdrop, and after a successful one-day strike, Oakland city workers are heading back to the bargaining table on Friday.
“We work for the citizens of this community, not just for City Hall,” said Dwight McElroy, Oakland Chapter President of SEIU 1021. “Dozens of community organizations joined us in our struggle at the picket lines. It is with their support that we anticipate productive movement at the table.”
The community has pledged statements of support with workers in their demands, highlighted on July 1, for an economy that works well for all. And calls on the city to aim at the true culprits – the Wall Street profiteers – not at the working class of this community.
More than 5,000 people joined in the day-long strike, from community and labor allies to elected officials. Both SEIU 1021 and IFTPE Local 21 went on strike over Unfair Labor Practices related to bad faith bargaining and refusal to give vital financial information related to bargaining. They returned to work the following day.
“We hope the city is finally ready to settle a fair, no concession contract that bolsters much-needed public services for the community and recognizes the contribution of Oakland’s city workers,” McElroy said.
CONTACT: Anna Bakalis, SEIU 1021, 510-387-5341