BART Proposed Labor Contract Premature and a Big Mistake

Monday, November 30, 2020

Contra Costa County – On Thanksgiving eve, BART announced a tentative labor contract with their represented groups, after secret negotiations were held during BART Directors’ campaign elections. The agreement is scheduled to be acted upon at their Thursday meeting (December 3).

The following is a statement from Senator Steve Glazer:

BART is in a financial meltdown due to the pandemic and it has no clear plan for recovery. So why did the district make an early agreement with their represented employee groups when the current contract does not expire until July 1, 2021?

It is important to note that in the first half of 2021, BART will have a clearer idea about Covid-19 vaccine availability, ridership improvements, financial bailout assistance from the federal government, and the results of early retirement incentives already offered to existing employees. All these potential outcomes provide important budgetary insight before agreeing to new contract terms. 

Along with other specific contract changes, this tentative agreement is premature and a big mistake and will likely harm BART riders, commuters and taxpayers through fare hikes and service erosion.

Shockingly, this contract was negotiated without any public notice and occurred during an active election campaign for BART Directors. While Directors were negotiating with BART unions on one hand they were asking the same unions for campaign contribution with the other hand. This is an outrageous injection of politics in a hugely consequential employer-employee agreement. 

The district’s own financial analysis projected a $33 million shortfall by next summer amid the steepest decline in ridership in the agency’s history.

BART is tying its hands when the district will need all the flexibility it can get to avoid a financial disaster. By giving up the ability to implement salary reductions if revenues continue to decline, BART is leaving few options but to lay off employees and curtail the number of trains, which would further depress ridership and deepen the agency’s financial crisis.

BART has failed to even do a salary survey of other transit districts and public agencies to determine if the current salaries called for in this agreement are needed to recruit and retain qualified employees – basic data needed to inform any effective negotiation.

Also, by setting the terms of the agreement at 3 years (rather than 4 years based on past contract durations), the future contract will be negotiated during another election year. Work rule changes, which were central to the 2013 contract negotiations, were completely abandoned. Important E-Bart reforms, instituted by former General Manager Grace Crunican were reversed. 

No wonder the BART administration undertook these negotiations without public notice and its Board of Directors now seems prepared to rush the contract through with little public review.

BART’s management doesn’t want the public to see what they are doing because they know that BART riders and other Bay Area residents would not support this agreement if they understood its details and its consequences.