BART Workers Ditch Labor Talks Until Management Deals With all the Transit Violence (Update)
Update 4 p.m.: Well that was fast. Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for BART, tells us that both sides were back at the table this afternoon, and safety was definitely a top issue. "We are fully engaged in a safety conversation," she said.
That's a weapon in the background
Original story 10:01 a.m.: 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.
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