Negotiating a fair contract is a complex process that involves hard work and commitment from both labor and management. When both sides bargain in good faith and share a goal of securing a deal, a deal eventually gets done. I’ve personally been involved in many tough negotiations that ended with a fair deal that both parties could live with. It takes patience and willingness from both sides to compromise.
In the BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] negotiations, unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. BART management paid Thomas Hock, an out-of-state lawyer with a history of driving disputes to a strike, nearly $400,000 to lead negotiations. Hock and his company have been responsible for seven strikes, 47 unfair labor practice charges and nine discrimination lawsuits. Not exactly a history of committing to compromise in order to secure a deal.
True to form, Hock hasn’t been serious about negotiating a resolution at BART that would spare the Bay Area a strike.
Fruitvale Station will not make many people’s lists as the feelgood film of the summer – it’s a semi-fictional account of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, the troubled young black man who was mortally wounded by a transit police officer on an Oakland BART platform in 2009. Director Ryan Coogler’s debut movie opens with actual grainy cell phone footage, taken by bystanders, of the chaotic moments leading to Grant’s shooting after a melee had erupted on a train full of New Year’s Eve revelers.
Yet the story remains a powerfully optimistic work that shows Grant (Michael B. Jordan), in his last day alive, coming to terms with his criminal past as a small-time drug dealer. We watch as he tries to move his life in a new direction and become a better husband and father. And, despite Grant’s recurring moments of explosive personal confrontations, Coogler’s film knows when to pull back and take a restrained,
I’ve seen some pretty outrageous anti-worker opinion pieces written about the contract negotiations at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) over the last two months. But nothing I’ve read is as infuriating as a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed from Chuck and Barbara McFadden.
In short, the McFaddens assert that workers like those at BART are not deserving of the middle-class wage their unions negotiate. To make their point, they use an argument that’s all too common today — private sector workers are suffering so public sector workers should too. What’s so absurd about this logic is that the very reason so many private sector workers are struggling is because most don’t have the ability to bargain with their employer for a decent wage in return for a hard day’s work.
Workers should be able to negotiate with their employers over wages and benefits like health care and retirement security.
How did the BART dispute ever reach this point?
For several weeks now, BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] management has mounted a sophisticated PR campaign, stating that its workers are overpaid and unreasonable. But its evidence on employee pay and benefits has been misleading at best; its estimates of average pay include many highly paid managers, thus exaggerating significantly the pay of frontline employees. Likewise, management’s statements on employee contributions to health benefits have failed to account for the significant out-of-pocket expenses incurred by many BART employees.
Denigrating your workers in the media may be a winning strategy in the battle for public opinion, but it’s a foolhardy one for senior management running an organization whose success depends so heavily on employee commitment and flexibility.
This week’s public hearing in Oakland before Governor Brown’s three-member investigative panel provided an entirely different version of events from BART’s media campaign.