Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)

CA: Unions Have to Move to Make Real Progress at Bargaining Table

Labor negotiations are scheduled for next week between BART and its two largest unions, ATU 1555 and SEIU 1021, but not much productivity is expected unless union leadership makes a significant move to bring down the cost of their financially unsustainable contract proposal.

The unions have yet to move below a 20+ percent wage increase proposal over three years. They’ve been stuck above 20 percent since April while BART has shown good faith movement in an effort to get a deal in place and avoid another unnecessary strike.

On Aug. 10, BART presented its final offer to union leadership to help reach a contract agreement before the cooling off period took effect the following day. Union leadership left the bargaining table and has yet to respond to the proposal, which includes a 10 percent raise for employees over four years (2.5 percent, 2.5 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.5 percent).

“The problem with negotiations has not been the number of meetings- it is the unrealistic nature of the union proposals. Until union leadership starts putting forward reasonable proposals, we will be unable to settle this,” said BART Board President Tom Radulovich. “The gap remains far too wide, with only one side making significant movement towards settlement. We’ve asked union leadership to take our last offer to a vote of the workers to see if they want a 10 percent raise, but they refused. The Bay Area has zero appetite for a strike, especially when there is a 10 percent raise on the table.”

All employees stand to gain thousands of extra dollars in their paychecks over the four year contract under the terms of BART’s final contract offer. BART’s offer of a 10 percent pay increase over four years equates to about an extra $8,600 in the paychecks of the average station agent and train operator over the life of the four year contract, even after accounting for the pension and medical provisions of the proposal. Station agents and train operators started negotiations making up to $62,000 a year in base salary.

For an SEIU maintenance worker III, who at the beginning of negotiations was making an average of $74,000 a year in base salary, BART’s final offer would provide about an extra $10,200 over 4 years.

For an SEIU utility worker, who performs a variety of janitorial duties in maintaining shops, offices, and revenue vehicles, making $51,500 a year in base salary when negotiations began, this offer would provide for about $7,100 over four years.

These figures will vary depending on which tax bracket an employee is in and what medical plan an employee picks. When calculating these figures, BART assumed a 28 percent tax bracket and used average base salaries. BART also assumed the employee’s medical coverage is through Kaiser, which most current BART employees have. These figures factor in the employee contribution to their pension and represent take home pay after taxes.

BART’s final offer calls for employees to begin to contribute 1 percent of base wages to their pension the first year, and 2 percent, 3 percent and 4 percent in subsequent years. Employees currently pay nothing.

For health care, employees will continue to pay the same scheduled flat rate which is currently $92.24 per month. However, BART will adjust the cap on its health insurance payment to the lower of either the Kaiser or Blue Shield Access Plus family plan. Those who desire to have a more expensive plan will need to pay the difference. The majority of BART employees will be unaffected by this provision since they are already using the lowest of the two plans, Kaiser.

New HMO provider options that will be available in 2014 provide significant overlaps with Blue Shield doctor networks so employees who currently have the more expensive plan and are looking to save money can switch to another plan below the cap.

“We have an offer on the table that is good for our employees and good for the future of BART,” Radulovich said. “BART is eager to get back to the table but the unions need to stop posturing and show they are interested in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.”