BART ATU 1555 Workers Ditch Labor Talks Until Management Deals With all the Transit Violence
By Erin Sherbert Wed., Jun. 19 2013 at 10:01
That's a weapon in the background
BART workers fired off a rather blunt letter to BART negotiators last night, informing them they are no longer going to confab about labor contracts until BART does something about the "rising assaults, homicides, and injuries" to BART riders and employees.
It was no coincidence that the letter was sent the same day Yeiner Perez, 24, appeared in court to answer to charges of battery and sexual battery after a BART employee videoed the naked acrobat terrorizing commuters last month. The video went viral, forcing authorities to finally charge Perez. (We also learned from the video that the agent booths are not bullet proof).
The BART union, which represents more than 900 station agents, train operators, and power support workers, created a 6-minute video, highlighting how grossed out and terrified they were of BART -- and all the weirdos who ride it.
And with the union's contract set to expire on June 30, workers are hoping this issue resonates with higher ups.
See Also: Even BART Workers Are Grossed Out, Terrified by BART
Read the letter:
Mr. Tom Hock, Veolia Transportation c/o San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District 300 Lakeside Drive, Oakland, CA 94604 June 18, 2013
For years, we have been alerting BART and its Board of Directors that our Station Agents are facing assaults and other violent attacks at work, where they often work alone at night, even in stations where BART knows that hundreds of serious crimes are committed each year. BART police statistics show that just in the past three years, 2,446 serious crimes took place in just five stations. BART's Chief of Police indicated that these crimes are so serious that BART is required to report them to the FBI, as they include homicide, rape, physical battery, aggravated assault, and serious property crimes. During the same time period, system wide, more than 1,100 BART customers, and another 100 BART workers have been physically attacked on BART property.
We provided BART with our proposals to address violence in the workplace and other health and safety concerns on April 1. From the first day on which BART's negotiating team was willing to meet, May 13, ATU Local 1555 has made it entirely clear that we need BART to take the members' concerns over violence directed at Station Agents and other employees seriously. Among our proposals, as you know, is one that would ensure that no station agent is asked to work alone after 10 pm or before 6 am. Last week, you indicated that you understood that they were in danger, but that BART was not interested in assigning more than one person to work in the stations because "that would only put two people in danger." Your statement is absurd. OSHA recommends pairing up workers who work in publicly accessible locations at night precisely because doing so prevents attacks from happening, and ensures that someone is available to call for help if need be.
Yesterday, you took BART's position even further, and in violation of BART's obligation to negotiate in good faith, categorically refused to bargain over the issue of employee safety altogether. You declared, on BART's behalf, that "We're not interested" in bargaining over worker safety issues and that you do not intend to consider the Union's proposal nor to provide us with a counter on any of the Union's proposals on night time staffing nor any other aspect of worker safety.
Instead of bargaining, BART is cutting the Union out from any decision making when frontline workers are the most knowledgeable and the most invested in this critical area. You heard our response - we insist that BART negotiate in good faith. Your conduct as chief negotiator shows that BART' Board of Directors did not hire you to negotiate at all. You were hired to obstruct meaningful bargaining and to pick a fight with BART employees.
Given your statements yesterday, we do not believe that meeting today as scheduled would be fruitful. We ask that your team use this afternoon to reconsider its approach to bargaining over these critical issues, and that we reconvene at the bargaining table tomorrow at 1 p.m. BART has a variety of proposals from the Union that await a meaningful response.
President and Business Agent
ATU Local 1555
BART Board Wants Strike During Summer "If BART is going to disrupt the peace and quiet of commuters of the Bay Area, we'd better do it in the summertime,"' said BART Director Joel Keller.
BART Board Wants Strike During Summer "If BART is going to disrupt the peace and quiet of commuters of the Bay Area, we'd better do it in the summertime,"' said BART Director Joel Keller.
Collision course: With contract talks going nowhere fast, BART's two biggest unions are preparing to take a strike authorization vote.
"We don't want to put the public in an anxiety situation," said Antonette Bryant, president and business agent for the Amalgamated Transit Union. "But the fact is, we can't bargain when they are giving us rubber numbers."
BART and leaders of unions representing 2,400 drivers, mechanics and station agents are meeting with state mediators this week to try to reach a deal on a contract to replace the current pact, which expires at the end of the month. But the two sides remain miles apart over pay and employee health and pension contributions.
That has BART bracing for a possible strike right after the Fourth of July weekend. It would be the first walkout since 1997.
If there is a strike, BART management has already nixed the idea of asking Gov. Jerry Brown to order a 60-day cooling-off period. Such a truce, which cannot be extended, would end right around Labor Day weekend - when the Bay Bridge is scheduled to close for several days so work on the new eastern span can be finished.
It's also just as the America's Cup races heat up, with thousands of sailing fans expected to load onto BART en route to the waterfront.
"If BART is going to disrupt the peace and quiet of commuters of the Bay Area, we'd better do it in the summertime,"' said BART Director Joel Keller.
One thing is certain, said BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost: "This week with the mediator will be very telling. If there is no budging with the mediator, things wouldn't look good."ATU 1555BART
Negotiating with BART politicians is not easy says ATU 1555 President
http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Negotiating-with-BART-politicians-is-not-easy-4608447.phpShort, Special To The Chronicle
Train operator Justin Hatt makes an announcement to commuters on his packed SFO bound train as it sits delayed at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland, CA on Friday May 31st, 2013.BART is experiencing severe delays while trains are running single track after two maintenance vehicles collided in the transbay tube, resulting in track damage needing repair.
June 19, 2013
Imagine if every four years you had to negotiate your salary, health and retirement benefits, hours and working conditions with politicians who, as we know from gridlock in Washington, instinctively play games rather than compromise. It's not easy.
In 2009, BART's elected leadership claimed the transit system faced a $310 billion deficit and used it to extract $100 million in concessions from its front-line workforce, impose a wage and hiring freeze, cut service and raise fares for riders. A year later, which happened to be an election year for BART directors, they discovered a surplus and voted a fare rollback to riders.
Today, revenues at BART are up. Ridership is at record levels. Trains are running at better than 95 percent on-time. BART itself is forecasting an annual operating surplus of $125 million per year for the next 10 years. But because this is a contract negotiations year with its union workers, BART's politicians once again have projected an overall budget deficit of $10 billion over 25 years that workers and riders are supposed to resolve.
In order to arrive at a fair contract by June 30, both sides need to work with real budget figures. Instead, BART has presented a political document, not a fiscal one. BART's projected budget deficit directly corresponds to the money its elected directors are charged with raising from federal, state and local funding sources to upgrade and expand the BART system. We've done our job. They need to do theirs.
With the wage freeze, take-home pay for BART's front-line workers has fallen 11 percent behind Bay Area inflation since 2009. Even with BART's revenues the healthiest in years, BART is proposing to cut our pay by 10 percent rather than reward us for doing more work with fewer people over the past four years.
That simply isn't fair. Neither is BART's deliberate misrepresentation of our salaries and benefits. BART keeps adding in the compensation of top-line management - the more than $400,000 that General Manager Grace Crunican makes, for example - and publicizing the result as the average pay scale for its employees.
The average pay for a BART station agent or train operator with 20 years experience is $61,000. Our pensions average a modest $21,000 a year - and we're not eligible for Social Security. BART workers already pay $92 a month toward their health care premium, and have agreed to contribute an additional 3 percent each year for the next 20 years. Some workers, who choose other health care plans, pay up to $800 a month.
Finally, there's the issue of safety. Almost 1,100 BART workers and patrons have been physically attacked in the past three years. We have asked BART directors repeatedly to improve safety standards, but they refuse to talk about it. It's time for the politicians who run BART to put away the political agenda and address the urgent needs of this great transit system.
Antonette Bryant is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 in Oakland, which represents more than 900 train operators, station agents and other front-line workers on BART.www.wemakebartwork.com
Tags: ATU 192BARThealth and safety
ATU 192 AC Transit Workers Votes 97.4% to Authorize Strike
ATU 192 AC transit workers are getting ready for a strike on July 1, 2013 when their contract expires.
Rail Safety and the Value of a Life
• June 17, 2013, 10:32 p.m. ET
Rail Safety and the Value of a Life
By TED MANN
Next month, a major bridge over the Schuylkill River just outside Philadelphia will be declared too unsafe for trains to use. Its wood ties are rotten and officials fear the rails, expanding in the summer sun, will pull the trestle apart.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or Septa, says the bridge hasn't been fixed because Septa is being required to spend money on a different safety program. The other program is designed to prevent trains from crashing into each other.
Both goals—avoiding bridge failures and avoiding train crashes—are top priorities, Septa says. But Septa argues that basic repairs are its more urgent need.
"We could have great signals," says Rich Burnfield, Septa's chief financial officer. "But we might not have safe bridges to run those trains over."
Trouble on the Tracks
Justin Maxon for The Wall Street Journal
Corrosion on a viaduct in Swarthmore, Pa.
• More photos and interactive graphics
Similar complaints are being made nationwide, from New York's sprawling transit system, to the tiny 13-station Rail Runner Express in New Mexico. The rail networks are fighting a federal requirement to install anticrash systems by the end of 2015. They argue their systems are already safe and that the requirement siphons money from repairs. They want Congress to push back the deadline.
On Wednesday the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on railroad safety, including the progress on installing anticrash gear. Overall, the mandate applies to at least 25 U.S. passenger systems carrying nearly 564 million passengers annually.
Central to the debate is the delicate matter of putting a dollar value on saving a life. It is an age-old regulatory predicament—namely, whether or not spending to make one thing safe steers money away from addressing a more serious threat elsewhere.
The effort to calculate the value of lifesaving is a growing area of research among regulators and economists alike, says Michael Livermore of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University's School of Law. The research enables "finer distinctions" about the cost that society is willing to bear to lower risks, he says.
In the case of the upgraded train signals, the Federal Railroad Administration, which regulates passenger and freight trains, in 2009 put the installation cost at 15 times the economic benefits from prevented accidents. The FRA came to this number by applying a standard government formula.
Advocates for the new rules include Deborah Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. She draws a parallel to the time when NTSB pushed airlines to add collision-avoidance systems.
"We've virtually eliminated midair collisions," Ms. Hersman says. "They said it was too expensive and they couldn't do it. It was mandated, it was implemented, it changed countless lives."
A handful of serious rail crashes—including a 2008 head-on collision that killed 25 people—prompted Congress to require the new signals. The FRA says the system could prevent 52 accidents a year, ranging from nonfatal rail-yard mishaps to deadly train crashes.
For the railroads, "There is always going to be an excuse not to do something that it's going to cost them money," says Allan Moran, whose daughter died in the 2008 crash, which occurred near Los Angeles when a Metrolink commuter train ran a red light.
If the new requirements had been in place then, Mr. Moran says, "Our daughter might be alive today."
The rail anticrash technology, Positive Train Control or PTC, is designed to automatically stop a train even before it runs a red signal or gets into other dangerous situations. This is an improvement over most current systems, which can warn train operators of danger, and in some cases automatically halt trains, but still allow the possibility of collisions.
This can lead to human error. In the 2008 Metrolink crash, investigators found the train operator was sending texts around the time he ran the red light.
Other parts of the world, including Europe, Japan and China, have PTC-like systems in place. The NTSB says the new systems would have prevented at least 15 accidents since 2005 that killed 50 people and injured 942.
"As sure as the sun rises and sets, we will see these collisions occur," the NTSB's Ms. Hersman says. "I think the question that certainly the commuter [railroads] have to ask themselves is: Are they going to be the next Metrolink?"
The question took on renewed urgency last month. PTC wouldn't have prevented a Metro-North derailment in Connecticut that injured more than 70 people, the NTSB said. But a major freight-train collision in Missouri—which destroyed a nearby bridge—likely could have been prevented with the more robust signals, the NTSB said.
The FRA puts the cost of upgrades at up to $13 billion for passenger and freight railroads. The nation's transit agencies' share for the new signal systems is expected to top $2 billion. Overall, the transit agencies have a backlog of around $12.6 billion for commuter-rail upgrades (as opposed to subway, light-rail or buses), in order to achieve a state of good repair, the Federal Transit Administration reported in 2010. The FTA oversees municipal and regional mass-transit systems.
It is tough to draw direct comparisons of train passenger safety to other types of travel, according to the Department of Transportation. For instance, the definition of a travel fatality varies. With automobiles, it is a death from injuries up to 30 days after a crash; for trains it is up to a year.
The American Public Transportation Association, an industry group, says that, for cars, about 1.4 people died for every 100 million passenger-miles traveled from 2003 through 2008, federal data show. For commuter rail, the figure was 0.06 deaths and for Amtrak, 0.03.
Overall in the past decade, FRA statistics show, 56 passengers and employees have died in incidents on mainline track, not including people or cars struck at grade crossings.
Trade groups for both freight and passenger railroads have urged lawmakers to push back the 2015 deadline for the new signals. "These are very complex systems," says APTA's Rob Healy. "They're not systems that you can just buy at Radio Shack off the shelf."
Railroad signals vary widely, their complexity determined by the type and speed of the trains they regulate, as well as congestion. Areas without signals are known as "dark territory." On these stretches, thousands of miles of track nationwide, a tower operator keeps a list of trains on the rails, and train operators radio in to ask permission to move ahead. Dark territory even includes some suburban commuter-rail routes such as the eastern reaches of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Long Island Rail Road.
Some railroads say they can meet the deadline, including Metrolink and Amtrak. On the other hand, Chicago-based Metra, the second-busiest commuter railroad after the LIRR, is already assuming Congress will delay the PTC mandate by three years—something Congress considered last year.
Metra recently shifted some $14 million away from its PTC budget to fund repairs instead. A Metra spokesman said the funds would instead be used to make improvements in the rail yards and to fix up aging train stations.
New York's MTA has said PTC installation costs will grow to at least $750 million and that it is delaying other repairs as a result. For instance, it postponed electrical upgrades along its Harlem Line that would let it run more and longer trains during rush hour.
The Obama administration has shown sympathy to calls for relief. In 2011 a then-adviser to the administration, law professor Cass Sunstein, singled out PTC in a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing as a rule with costs that are "unambiguously" greater than its benefits.
Executive orders signed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama require federal agencies to perform cost-benefit analyses when imposing some new rules and mandates. For regulations designed to prevent fatalities, that means calculating the economic benefit of preserving a life.
In the past, to calculate the value of saving a life, the government used the value of the wages a person would have been expected to earn over the remainder of a lifetime, says W. Kip Viscusi, a professor at Vanderbilt University who consulted with the Reagan administration to overhaul life valuations in the early 1980s. At Mr. Viscusi's urging, the federal government adopted a measurement known as the "value of statistical life," or VSL—roughly speaking, the amount of money Americans find reasonable to spend for a given reduction in the risk of death.
The switch to VSL raised the dollar value on preserving a human life. Among other things, that made costlier safety regulations easier to justify on economic grounds.
"Agencies I think latched onto this," Mr. Viscusi says. "Not only is it good economics, but it increases their benefits by a factor of 10. So it makes their regulations look more attractive than they otherwise would." The calculation is now a standard part of the cost-benefit analysis that occurs across federal agencies when they issue rules deemed to be "significant" by the Office of Management and Budget.
To calculate the value of life for a given government regulation, agencies use wage, consumer-purchase and job-safety data to calculate the premium already built into economic data to account for relative riskiness. So economists deduce from people's willingness to pay for safety features—say, air bags—how much they value lowering the risk of death.
From there, economists extrapolate the VSL, the economic value of saving a single life. Back in 2009, the Department of Transportation put that number at $6 million; today it is calculated at $9.1 million.
"Their survey is pretty much on target," Mr. Viscusi says of the DOT's current VSL value. "It's about an order of magnitude larger than what a railroad would pay in a court case if they killed somebody." The balance that must be struck, he says, is that the sums might potentially be spent on "other things that would enhance health more than that expenditure."
The NTSB's Ms. Hersman says that the safety system's benefits outweigh such monetary concerns. "There's always arguments about, 'The technology is not there,' or, 'The money's not there,'" she says. "But at the end of the day, we have to make a commitment, and a choice. We see this over and over again in all modes of transportation."
Positive train control isn't a new concept, but it gained urgency after Sept. 12, 2008, when a Metrolink train rolled out of the station in Chatsworth, Calif. As it motored ahead, its engineer began texting a friend, investigators found.
The train ran a red light and slammed into a freight train. The engineer died, along with two dozen other people. Another 102 were hospitalized.
Within months, lawmakers led by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both of California, focused on technology that could have prevented the accident—PTC. In 2008, former President George W. Bush signed a law requiring railroads to install the systems by the end of 2015.
Metrolink is one of PTC's strongest backers. "Every year it gets delayed or not put in, someone dies who did not have to," says Richard Katz, Metrolink's board chairman. Referring to other rail lines, he says: "If there's another project on their list that has the potential to save lives the way this does, they should consider that."
Other railroads say that even though their existing systems don't meet PTC standards, an accident like Chatsworth wouldn't have occurred on their lines.
"I don't ever want to paint anything as perfect," said Howard Permut, president of the MTA's Metro-North rail line, in an interview several months before the railroad's May 17 derailment in Connecticut, which is believed to be the result of a broken rail joint. "There's always human error. Things happen." But the MTA's current system, he said, "has been proven to be an extremely safe system."
Regarding his railroad's May 17 crash, he says, "It was a very tragic event, but it would not have been prevented by PTC." He notes the NTSB has affirmed that.
He and others point to a key difference between Metrolink's original signal system and theirs. In Chatsworth, Metrolink's signals worked properly: A red signal warned of the approaching freight train. But the system contained no fail-safe to slow or halt the Metrolink train when it barreled through the red signal.
Such an accident would be virtually impossible on some of the busiest commuter-rail lines, including Metro-North, and large sections of LIRR, Metra and Septa's territory, executives from those lines say. Already, they say, their current systems will trigger brakes or cut train power on much of their track if trains don't respond to alarms or ignore red signals.
But these systems, known generally as "automatic train control" and "cab signaling," aren't as aggressive as PTC, and they aren't necessarily systemwide. And collisions—in sections without those fail-safes—still occur. Of the 15 crashes since 2005 that PTC could have prevented, according to NTSB, one was a 2005 Metra crash that killed two and injured 117 when an engineer improperly interpreted a signal. In 2006, two Septa trains collided, injuring 38, when an engineer disobeyed a signal and failed to stop his train in time.
The engineers couldn't be reached for comment. A union representing the two men declined to comment.
In Pennsylvania, passengers on the route affected by next month's Schuylkill River bridge closure are bracing themselves. Sarah Pantelidou says she will probably drive to work more often. Deferred maintenance "made financial sense for Septa, I assume," she says. "But this day was going to come."
Septa will offer passengers like her a bus alternative. But David Burke, another regular on the train, says: "I think I'm going to walk it instead."
Write to Ted Mann at email@example.com
PORTLAND, OR (June 17, 2013) – Today, United States District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman issued an order vacating the National Labor Relations Board’s August 13, 2012 decision in International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 48, 358 NLRB No. 102 (IBEW, Local 48) in which the NLRB intervened in a private contractual dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and ICTSI Oregon, Inc. and awarded work to public-sector employees working for the Port of Portland. The order is the result of a lawsuit filed against the NLRB by the Pacific Maritime Association on September 7, 2012. PMA argued in its lawsuit that the NLRB impermissibly denied PMA’s motion to intervene in IBEW, Local 48 and unlawfully expanded its jurisdictional reach to public-sector employees who are expressly excluded from the National Labor Relations Act by Congress.
At the conclusion of the June 4, 2013 hearing that resulted in today’s order, District Court Judge Mosman concluded that the Board had overstepped its reach:
“And what I said tentatively earlier I now say by way of holding that I find that that is what happened here: The agency’s decision did in fact violate a clear statutory mandate, and its explanations for why it did not do so either answer the wrong question or otherwise really fail to take up what it did wrong here, and I am persuaded that it was clear and a violation.”
Today’s order states that the NLRB “exceeded its statutory authority” by issuing IBEW, Local 48, and the order vacates the NLRB’s decision in IBEW, Local 48 completely.
“This is an extraordinary step for the District Court to take, and it highlights the fact that the Board had no right to interject itself in this manner on behalf of ICTSI,” said ILWU Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet. “The ILWU is in a dispute with ICTSI about whether or not ICTSI will comply with the collective bargaining agreement that it signed onto by voluntarily becoming a PMA member back in 2010. ICTSI decided that it didn’t have to abide by its labor agreement with the ILWU and sought help from the NLRB and the Port to avoid adverse arbitration decisions. Today’s court order vacating the NLRB’s 10(k) decision confirms what the union has been saying all along – that the Board’s authority is limited, and that in this case it should have respected our internal dispute resolution process to which both ICTSI and the ILWU are bound. Neither the NLRB nor the Port of Portland should be using public assets to assist a private corporation that refuses to honor its express commitments to its workforce.”
The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have loaded and unloaded cargo at all West Coast ports since 1934, and ICTSI Oregon leased Terminal 6 from the Port of Portland in 2010. The Port of Portland privatized Terminal 6 in 2010, and in so doing, relinquished operational control of the facility to Philippines-based ICTSI, which also operates terminals in the Philippines, Brazil, Poland, Japan, Madagascar, Indonesia, Syria, China, Georgia, Colombia, Brunei, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Croatia and India.
San Francisco Labor Council Resolution to Defend Labor & the Working People Of Turkey
Whereas, the Turkish AKP Erdogan government has launched a massive attack against workers, youth, educators, journalists and minorities in Turkey; and
Whereas, the AKP government has supported the privatization and destruction of public spaces including the Taksim square; and
Whereas, the Taksim Square has historic important for all workers in Turkey because of the massacre of 34 workers in 1977 who were rallying on May Day; and
Whereas, the Turkish Union DISK and KESH and the International Trade Union Confederation ITUC have called for the defense of the working people of Turkey and the end of repression, the freeing of all arrested workers, journalists and thousands of people; and
Whereas, the US government has supported the policies of privatization of the post office, water, healthcare, public works and other public resources through the IMF and World Bank; and
Whereas the Turkish Union DISK is calling for a halt of the export of US gas canisters and other police and military instruments that are now being used on the people of Turkey; and
Whereas, The San Francisco Labor Council stands for labor and human rights for all working people and opposes military and police repression of democratic rights; and
Whereas, the issues of privatization of public services and education are a critical issue for working people of San Francisco and the United States; and
Whereas, the US government is continuing to support the government of Turkey despite the open violation of democratic, labor and human rights of the working people, the Kurds and other minorities in the country,
Therefore be it Resolved that this Council calls on the government of Turkey to immediately halt the repression of trade unionists and working people of Turkey, for the release of all jailed protesters, for the immediate halt of export of tear gas to Turkey from the US. This Council supports the struggle of the unions of Turkey including DISK and KESH to oppose privatization and their fight for union and human rights and this council will let these unions know that we stand in solidarity with them and will send a statement to the Embassy of Turkey and also will send letters to our Congressional representatives and US Senators to publicly oppose these assaults on labor and the working people of Turkey and call for an end to the US policy of supporting privatization and deregulation of the economy in Turkey through the IMF and World Bank which has harmed the working people and poor of Turkey and helped lead to the present situation.
Submitted by Brother Frank Martin Del Campo, LCLAA; Sister Alisa Messer, AFT 2121; Mike Casey, Unite Here 2; and Alice Lindstrom, APWU, and adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council on June 10, 2013.
Hearst Owned SF Chronicle Gives Corporate Shill Voice To Attack BART Workers-Wants Continued Concessions For BART Workers
Hearst Owned SF Chronicle Gives Corporate Shill Voice To Attack BART Workers-Wants Continued Concessions For BART Workers
Riders look to BART, unions to keep trains running
Michael Short, Special To The Chronicle
The contract between BART and its unions expires on June 30.
June 17, 2013
BART and the five unions representing its more than 2,800 employees once again are hurtling down the track toward the broken bridge of failed contract negotiations. In an ominous sign, BART last week announced that after almost three months of fruitless talks, it is seeking the help of a state mediator to steer this train onto a new track.
But with less than three weeks before the contract expires on June 30, hundreds of thousands of riders who rely on BART every day to get to work, to school and to other destinations are anxiously awaiting word on an agreement but planning for the real possibility that a strike is near.
BART and its unions must break this four-year cycle of contentious, costly and disruptive contract disputes. BART is the backbone of the region's mass transit system and a vital part of the region's economy.
As in past negotiations, the issues dividing the two sides center largely around pay and benefits, including health care and pension costs. The unions are asking for a whopping 23 percent pay increase over the next three years. BART is offering a 1 percent raise over four years. That's about as far apart as you can get.
After five years of economic hard times and no pay increases, the unions are hoping to play catch-up. By any objective measure, however, BART workers have never lagged the region in pay. The average BART employee earns nearly $80,000 annually, compared with the Bay Area average pay of $64,197, and a 2012 survey that showed 52 percent of BART riders make $60,000 or less. Add in health and pension benefits and the average BART employee compensation package tops $130,000.
The unions also are unhappy about BART's proposal that employees increase contributions toward health and pension costs, but BART workers currently contribute zero to their pension plans and pay just a flat $92 a month toward health benefits that cost BART between $1,700 and $2,000. All workers in the Bay Area should be so fortunate.
The reality is that the worst economic downturn in modern times has left us all facing new fiscal realities. Public agencies throughout the region and across the state are facing steadily rising health and pension benefit costs, and increasingly are asking employees to shoulder their fair share. BART is no different; its pension costs have doubled since 2005.
At the same time, BART is rightly working to bring its transit system into the 21st century, upgrading critical safety and operating equipment and replacing its aging fleet of train cars. Investing in this work may mean less money in the short run for generous raises and benefits, but it will have substantial long-term benefits for BART, its riders and its employees by making the system safer, more efficient and better prepared to support a growing population and a burgeoning economy.
BART management doesn't help itself in these negotiations when stories appear about a former general manager being the highest paid employee in a year when she didn't log a day of work. BART must do more to show it is firmly embracing the new fiscal realities it is asking its employees to accept.
Given the landscape for these negotiations, BART and the unions representing its employees have much work to do in a short period of time. There is ample room for compromise. They should avoid the theatrics of past negotiations and concentrate on keeping this train on the tracks.
Jim Wunderman is president and CEO of the Bay Area Council.
Some L.A. County bus drivers say pesticides are making them ill-
14 Metropolitan Transportation Authority drivers are pursuing workers' comp claims, and 110 have signed a petition to halt the agency's spraying of the vehicles.
Riders board a Metro Rapid bus. Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses are sprayed quarterly for pests,but severe infestations can require additional applications. (Gina Ferazzi, Los Angeles Times / June 17, 2013)
By Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times
June 16, 2013, 6:06 p.m.
Los Angeles County bus drivers say they are regularly becoming ill — sometimes while behind the wheel — from pesticides sprayed inside their vehicles by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
At least 14 Metro drivers are pursuing workers' compensation claims, and more than 110 have signed a petition that demands a halt to the spraying, according to their attorney. Some operators are on medical leave, and a few say they have left Metro because of repeated exposure.
"You can be driving your bus and get hit with the symptoms," said Frank Portillo, a 23-year coach operator who retired in March, sooner than planned, because of medical issues he believes are pesticide related. "It's a problem for those on the early shift, but you can breathe the fumes throughout the day. The smell is all over."
Three drivers — part of Metro's most heavily used transit system, shuttling 1 million passengers a day with a fleet of 2,500 buses — have lodged complaints with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health since 2011. They allege they have suffered severe headaches, dizziness, breathing problems, nausea and irritation to their eyes and skin from four brands of pesticides.
All can be harmful if they are swallowed, are inhaled or come into contact with the skin or eyes, research shows. Extreme exposure can be fatal.
Peter Melton, a spokesman for Cal/OSHA, said the agency is investigating whether Metro has violated regulations designed to prevent workers from being exposed to harmful substances. He declined to comment further because the inquiry is pending.
Although the drivers say they occasionally hear complaints from passengers about odors, there is no indication any riders have reported health problems as a result.
Nevertheless, advocates for transit users, such as the Bus Riders Union, are concerned that passengers might be getting ill as well, especially the elderly and children, who might be more sensitive to chemicals.
"If the drivers are getting sick, that is enough indication that it is not safe," said Sunyoung Yang, a union spokesperson. After an application, "In the morning, when the buses start running, there are some acrid smells. If there are unsafe chemicals inside the buses, there should be precautionary measures."
Portillo identified one of his former passengers as Eugene Rubalcava, 36, of San Gabriel, who relies on Metro buses to get to work. In an interview, Rubalcava said he has noticed chemical-like smells on occasion after he boards early in the morning. He says he has never become ill.
Metro officials said ample precautions are taken when buses are treated to kill roaches and other insects attracted by crumbs from sandwiches, chips, candy and other food items that passengers often bring on board.
They say that safety information is provided to operators, and no more than eight driver complaints have been officially lodged in the last five years. In a recent letter, the authority told Cal/OSHA that employee exposures are insignificant because of the controlled conditions and limited amounts of pesticide applied.
"Spraying buses is common to prevent insect infestations," said Dave Sotero, a Metro spokesman. "These are standard industry practices, and the chemicals are used for a multitude of purposes."
The pesticides in question are pyrethrins made of a natural substance from chrysanthemums or their synthetic equivalent known as pyrethroids.
Thought to be safer than other pesticides, their use has exploded during the last two decades. Both are applied to kill insects in homes, on pets and on commercial farms. But studies of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data show that the number of human health problems — including severe reactions — have increased several hundredfold since their introduction.
Although spraying pesticides is common at transit agencies, officials at the Orange County Transportation Authority and Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus said their operations apply a pesticide gel specifically in cracks, crevices and panel areas of their buses. Sprays are rarely, if ever, used, they said. Of the two transit operators, Orange County reported only one complaint from a driver in the last few years.
Metro contracts with ISOTECH, an experienced and license pest control company. Sections of bus interiors are sprayed, including the driver's area, and, as with OCTA and Santa Monica, pesticides are injected into cracks, crevices, moldings and panel areas.
Buses are then posted with warnings and sealed off for four hours before employees can enter, officials said. Each vehicle is treated quarterly, but severe infestations can require additional applications.
"Our first concern is safety for the public and our employees," said Debra Johnson, the deputy chief operations officer for Metro. "We use pesticides for infestations, and we go to extremes to make sure we have a safe environment."
Drivers say, however, that pesticide odors can linger during their eight-hour shifts, producing flu-like symptoms. On several occasions, Portillo said, he became so sick he had to request a replacement in the middle of his shift. He and other operators disputed Metro's statement that safety information is readily available, noting that warning notices have been removed from treated buses before operators arrived for work.
"The MTA is not responding to their concerns," said attorney Diana Sparagna, who represents the drivers pursuing workers' compensation claims. "We have done everything right, but the MTA makes it sound like this is nothing."
UPS Teamsters should say no " a big "fuck you" to all the hard-working UPS Teamsters across the country"
UPS Teamsters should say no " a big "fuck you" to all the hard-working UPS Teamsters across the country"
UPS Teamsters should say no
Donny Schraffenberger, a member of Teamsters Local 705 who works at the UPS CACH facility outside Chicago, argues for a "no" vote on the tentative contracts at UPS.
June 12, 2013
Teamsters in Louisville, Ky., campaign for a "no" vote on the UPS contract (Teamsters Local 89)
THE TENTATIVE national contracts at UPS for 2013 to 2018 are a big "fuck you" to all the hard-working UPS Teamsters across the country. The present contracts expire on July 31. The UPS and UPS Freight contracts cover 250,000 Teamsters. UPS has racked up massive profits over the last five years. While most of the economy has been wretched, UPS, on the other hand, has been expanding across the globe.
Last year, "Big Brown" made $4.8 billion in profits. Chairman and CEO Scott Davis earned over $13 million in 2011. That's 383 times what the average worker makes in a year!
Instead of giving us, the Teamster employees, a bigger share for all our work that made these profits possible, UPS management is instead trying to impose massive attacks on health care for us and for retirees.
Over the last 30 years, starting pay for part-timers has risen only 50 cents, from $8 an hour to $8.50. Starting pay for newly hired part-timers will now reach $10 an hour, but that's still ridiculously low--it will fall under the minimum wage in some states within the five-year length of the contract. Nonunion workers from Walmart to Whole Foods are demanding $15 an hour. Newly hired UPS part-timers need $15 an hour, too.
The five-year agreement calls for an inadequate $3.90 raise spread out through the contract, 10 cents less than the previous contract.
The company only guarantees part-timers 3.5 hours a day in a five-day workweek. Part-timers live on starvation wages, while top shareholders have seen their dividend checks get larger and larger.
While part-timers struggle to get hours, UPS package car drivers are scrambling down the road, drowning in boxes with far too many stops. They don't get to see their families or have a social life during the workweek. We need more package car jobs and a reduction in the number of stops to allow an eight-hour day.
Management has whittled down the workforce, squeezing more out of fewer workers. And if they don't have enough union workers to do the job in the ridiculously short span of time that upper management has allocated, the lowly part-time supervisors dash into a trailer to load or unload the packages, in violation of the contract.
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"THESE AGREEMENTS are a 'win-win-win' for our people, customers and shareholders," said Scott Davis, UPS chairman and CEO. "The fact that we have reached agreements well before our current contracts expire is a testament to the skills and determination of all those involved in these negotiations."
The proposed contract will create 2,350 new "22.3 full-time jobs" for the whole country. Named for an article in the 1997 UPS contract that followed a successful strike, 22.3 jobs combine two part-time jobs into a better-paying full-time job. The proposed number of new 22.3 jobs amounts to approximately one for every 60 part-timer--that's barely a drop in the bucket.
While Scott Davis boasts that this is a winning contract for everyone, many workers see it otherwise. The wealthy shareholders who do nothing have been enriched by our hard work. UPS top executives brag about the company's growth in the pages of theWall Street Journal.
Yet when it comes to compensating us, the reverse has been true. We are the ones boiling in the trailers during a July heat wave or freezing during subzero winter days.
UPS is an unsafe work environment. The brutal conditions ensure that many of us get injured. Some of us even die at work--like CACH worker and union brother Stephen Michel, who died two years ago from the 130-degree heat in his trailer.
Our current health care plan is very good, but could be even better. Instead, management wants to give us a plan that is far worse--and they are doing this with the help of Teamster General President James Hoffa and General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall.
UPS is playing off sections of the country with different health care plans, hoping that the sections that don't get hit as hard will vote yes. Around 140,000 Teamsters, including all part-timers, will be paying lot more out of pocket if the contract is ratified.
Family deductibles at present are zero, but will rise to $400 a year. Prescription drugs, MRIs and emergency room visits will cost more. Dental coverage will be more limited. Overall, UPS is moving more of the cost of health care onto workers' shoulders, with plans to shift even more of it onto us in the future. The time to make a stand is now.
Not content with screwing its present employees, Scott Davis wants to go after those that built this company, the retirees. Under the present deal, retirees pay $50 a month for health care for themselves and a spouse. By the end of this contract, they will be paying six times more--$300 a month!
Hoffa and Hall claim this as victory, stating that UPS wanted the retirees to pay $750 a month, but got talked down. With victories like these, who needs defeats?
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BY VOTING "no," we will send a clear message to UPS and to our Teamster leaders that support this crappy deal that we want more, not less. Then, we should demand that contract meetings be held, a strike vote taken, and real preparations made for a well-coordinated strike that involves us, the rank and file.
There is resistance to this contract spreading throughout the country. The executive board and stewards of Local 89 in Louisville, Ky., the biggest hub in the country, have unanimously recommended a "no" vote after a meeting where they went through the language of the tentative deal. Workers in Louisville and throughout the country are wearing homemade "vote no" T-shirts, making flyers and signs, and decorating their cars with the "vote no" message.
UPS is so afraid Local 89 will vote no that management is offering an additional $1,000 to all Local 89 UPS members--an outright bribe for a "yes" vote if the contract and separate air rider passes.
The UPS Freight contract is also terrible, with only a $2.50 raise over five years. UPS Freight Teamsters also have to pay for their own health care, the only Teamster-represented trucking company that does this.
Some UPS ballots and UPS Freight ballots have the wrong information on them. This almost seems intentional by Hoffa and Hall, and if not intentional, shows their utter incompetence to run our union. UPS ballots are due June 20.
I've been working at UPS for over 15 years. I now work as a 22.3 full-time worker at the giant CACH facility outside Chicago. In Local 705, we have a separate contract that is still being negotiated. We need to make our voices heard that we won't accept anything that remotely resembles this deal.
We need more full-time jobs. Workers in our hub have been waiting for 14 years for an inside full-time job. And it is the same, or even worse, around the country.
We need to keep our health care at the present or better level, not worse like the national deal. We need a minimum of 1,000 new 22.3 jobs in Local 705, and more package car jobs, too. We need to implement the OSHA ruling on the Stephen Michel case, so that no other worker gets injured or dies because of excessive heat in the building.
We need $15 starting pay for newly hired part-timers, with a substantial bump for current part-timers to close the gap between part-time and full-time pay. We need to ensure the retirees keep their health care at the present rate, and aren't given the the slap-in-the-face deal that Hoffa and Hall agreed to.
Jesus Figueroa, a 14-year veteran at CACH, sums it up like this:
UPS is making more and we shouldn't have to bow down to UPS management. We need to go on strike. We should have went on strike the last contract. We work a physical job. We will probably end up with a physical disability. We earned our health care. It was not given to us. A strike would benefit us since the company is doing so well because of people buying and shipping products from online purchasing.
And if UPS does not meet our demands, we should walk out on August 1!Tags: upsIBTHoffa