Yesterday, BART unions held a press conference where reporters gathered to learn that workers are still not happy with the way things are going at the bargaining table. Among the many complaints, union folks slammed BART's chief negotiator, Tom Hock, saying he's being totally unfair and has a history of being an unavailable hardass.
Afterward, BART released a very long quasi rebuttal to all these claims with a 9-point "fact sheet" that it hopes will help riders better understand why everything is so messed up and another strike hasn't been ruled out.
So here are the "facts" according to BART (note: the bolded "facts" came from BART's PR team):
Fact: The negotiations are being conducted through a state mediator who has set a calendar, agreed upon by all parties, for talks during the 30-day contract extension. Mediation involves proposals being delivered through the mediator rather than in face-to-face meetings. Sessions can go on all day between parties, with only a short time, if any at all, in the same room. Meanwhile, each team is working on responding to the others' proposals. This is standard practice in the mediation process.
In this case we have one mediator who is working with three different parties, sometimes having to meet with each separately and, at other times, with all three in the same room. There are also some contract provisions that are common to the two unions but many more that apply to only one or the other. It is a complicated process that requires patience from all of us.
Fact: In 1981, BART employee unions elected to withdraw from the Social Security System. BART established the Money Purchase Pension Plan (MPPP), a 401(a) qualified plan, into which BART makes tax deferred contributions up to $1,868 per year on behalf of eligible employees. This amount was calculated based on net savings to BART from leaving Social Security. Some employee groups also receive supplemental MPPP contributions of 1.627% of pay as a result of collective bargaining or District policy applicable to unrepresented employees. In addition to these annual contributions to the MPPP, BART pays both the employee and employer portions of CalPERS pension contributions. BART employees currently contribute nothing toward either the MPPP or the CalPERS pension.
Retirees who receive Social Security have paid into it during their working years. That is what BART is asking of its employees - that they contribute toward their pension.
Fact: All BART employees received a 1% raise on July 1 of this year (the same day they went on strike), as called for in their previous labor contract. All BART employees were given $3000 worth of lump sum payments during the previous contract. In addition, BART protected its employees from the rising cost of health care and pensions by picking up the tab at a cost equivalent of a 1% raise in each of the four years of the previous contract.
Fact: Just as other transit agencies do, and just like BART has done in the past, it hired a lead negotiator (Tom Hock) to help BART management navigate the complexities of labor negotiations. It is common practice to bring in outside help as a prudent investment given how much is at stake financially. The unions have also hired lawyers and professional negotiators to represent them at the bargaining table for this very reason. Mr. Hock joins BART's negotiating team and support staff, made up of BART employees who appreciate our workforce, respect union leadership, and want to see all BART employees thrive in the workplace. The BART employees who make up the negotiating team are also performing their regular work in addition to the time at the bargaining table. Mr. Hock provides a stable 24 hours a day contact for the state mediators, union leadership, and the General Manager.
Fact: Mr. Hock has negotiated over 400 labor contracts since 1972. In that time, he has had only two Unfair Labor Practice charges alleging bad faith bargaining filed against him. One was withdrawn by the union that filed it and, in the second case there was no finding of bad faith bargaining.
Fact: The General Manager is fully informed and available at all times to the District negotiating team and the state mediators. It would be impractical and far from a standard "best practice" for her to be part of day to day negotiations.
Fact: She did not. Her original agreement broke her total compensation into two components, base salary and management incentive pay, each prorated and payable in equal installments each pay period. Shortly after she joined BART, the Board of Directors consolidated these two components of Ms. Crunican's compensation into base salary without any increase in total annual compensation. This consolidation was done concurrently for all five Board appointees.
Fact: This was granted as part of Ms. Crunican's negotiated contract, which also included a lower salary than the previous General Manager. Previous General Managers were eligible for retiree medical benefits, in the event of termination, without a waiting period.
Fact: Safety for our riders and workers is the District's number one priority. We are constantly looking for ways to improve safety for our employees and our passengers. The FY14 capital budget contains approximately $60 million worth of projects that are either directly safety related or improve overall employee and patron safety. Examples of direct safety projects include third rail coverboard reinforcement, aerial structure fall protection, station and shop lighting improvements, new security station gates, enhanced CCTV, station emergency lighting and fire alarms, radio communications upgrades and employee facilities refurbishment. Less direct, but safety related nonetheless, are a multitude of traction power and electrical distribution rehabilitation projects, fencing and barrier replacement/enhancement, station improvements, track and wayside equipment refurbishment, escalator and elevator reliability and safety improvements, and shop/control center systems upgrades.