With less than a week to go before BART’s contracts with its two largest unions expire, labor leaders and management are busy holding news conferences and issuing news releases accusing each other of bargaining in bad faith.
Leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and foreworkers, and Service Employees International Union Local 1221, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, fired the first shot by holding a news conference to announce that they filed a lawsuit accusing management of failing to bargain in good faith over worker safety.
Related: BART Management: Labor Leader Filed False Report Of Customer Assault
BART management spokeswoman Alicia Trost responded by issuing a news release that says the worker safety allegations are “a smoke screen for the fact union leaders are refusing to bring our contracts in line with what is normal for the Bay Area and the transit industry.”
The transit agency’s management said it will hold its own news conference to provide an update on contract talks, which began on April 1 but haven’t been fruitful so far.
Trost previously said that union leaders haven’t even mentioned safety issues in their own internal communications about the labor talks, instead emphasizing matters such as salaries, benefits and work rules.
In another twist in the worker safety issues, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office today filed a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report against BART station agent and union spokesman George Figueroa.
Trost said Figueroa filed a police report saying he was struck by a BART patron at an Oakland station on June 8, citing the incident as an example of the safety issues faced by BART union employees.
Trost said Figueroa took three paid days off after the alleged incident and did media interviews “acting as a BART union spokesman making broad claims about the dangers faced by BART union station agents, train drivers and other frontline union employees.”
But Trost said a videotape of the alleged incident indicates that he was never struck by the BART patron.
ATU Local 1555 and SEIU Local 1021 members vote on Tuesday on whether to authorize a strike.
ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said at the union news conference in front of BART headquarters today that the unions don’t want to strike and, “We’re here to get a deal.”
But Bryant alleged that management is using “rubber numbers” and “inaccurate information” in contract talks and that’s making it difficult for the unions to bargain fairly.
The unions’ lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court this morning.
The suit accuses BART’s elected board of directors of refusing to bargain in good faith over worker safety and engaging in other violations of state law.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News