A BART train pulls out of Oakland's Rockridge station. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A BART train pulls out of Oakland’s Rockridge station. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Update, 1:15 p.m.: The lawsuit filed by BART unions this morning, originally described as a challenge to the district board’s rejection of a family-leave provision in their new contract, actually goes much further.

The suit (embedded at the end of this post) names the agency and all nine members of its board of directors and accuses them of bad faith bargaining on a wide variety of health, welfare and safety issues. The complaint says the district’s refusal to approve the contract in its entirety violates state law.

BART maintains that a family-leave clause in the contract, which would grant workers paid leave for up to six weeks to attend to family health emergencies, was mistakenly included in the deal signed by the district and ratified last month by both SEIU Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555.

In a statement, BART spokesperson Alicia Trost criticized the suit and called on union leaders to resubmit the contracts, minus the disputed leave provision, for new ratification votes:

This unnecessary action will only delay resolution to BART’s labor contract. A lawsuit is not needed to correct a mistake. When mistakes are made in contract negotiations they are corrected administratively by the parties, acting in good faith. Fortunately this mistake was caught in time before the mistaken language was brought before the District’s Board for ratification.

For the sake of BART’s riders, union leadership should allow workers to vote on the corrected agreement so BART can move forward with a renewed focus on providing safe, reliable and convenient transportation under a fair labor contract.

But the unions’ lawsuit accuses the agency of refusing to bargain on safety issues throughout negotiations earlier this year.

Among a long list of union allegations in the suit:

  • BART management refused to negotiate union proposals for improved worker safety at BART facilities amid a documented increase in assaults on station agents and other workers. The district is also accused of refusing to bargain over safety measures the unions want for other employees.
  • BART management unilaterally implemented changes in workers’ compensation procedures and plans further changes that will limit workers’ comp benefits without consulting the unions.
  • Management withheld financial information that it was required to furnish during contract negotiations. One of the items the unions wanted: details on how much the district paid for its preparations to train management employees to operate train. The unions also have sought detailed invoices for the services of Thomas Hock, the district’s chief negotiator.

Original post: BART’s unions say they’ll file a lawsuit against the transit agency over a disputed family-leave provision in their newly negotiated contract.

Officials from SEIU Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 will appear with their attorneys at the Alameda County Courthouse this morning as they file the suit. The unions are challenging a decision by the BART Board of Directors last month to approve the new contract but exclude the contested leave provision. The transit district insists it didn’t agree to the provision, which would grant workers six weeks of paid family leave, and that it was included in the final agreement by mistake. The previous union contract granted family leave only after workers had used up all their sick leave and vacation time.

BART says it discovered the change, which had been signed by the agency’s chief negotiator and senior district officials, only after the unions had ratified the contract.

In its 8-1 vote on Nov. 21, the BART board directed General Manager Grace Crunican to reopen talks with the unions to resolve the conflict. The unions, which struck for four days in both July and October, have demanded the clause remain in the contract and condemned the board’s vote as “illegitimate” and “unlawful.”

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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