BART RESISTS PREFERENTIAL HIRING PRINCIPLES
The 1960 and early 1970s saw the start-up of new transit rail systems, mostly constructed with federal funds, in such cities as Washington, D.C. (Local 689), Sacramento (Local 256), Buffalo (Local 1342), Baltimore (Local 1300) and Atlanta (Local 732). In each instance, 13C protections insured that Amalgamated members “followed their work” to the rail jobs.
The new rail system constructed by Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) to serve the Oakland and San Francisco areas, on the other hand, presented somewhat unique circumstances. The rail system was being constructed by a new transit district with jurisdiction only over the rail service. Pre-existing bus service would remain under separate control. BART was to become a bellwether test for Amalgamated.
Construction of the BART system with state bond funds was already well underway in 1964 when the federal transit program was first enacted. It was the Amalgamated’s view that career transit employees in the area should be allowed to follow their work onto the new system with all their union representation, seniority, contract wages and pension benefits.
It was not until 1968, as BART was rapidly completing its system with federal assistance, that section 13C arrangements for existing transit employees in the Bay Area were jointly negotiated by the Amalgamated and other unions in the area.
The agreement did not spell out what jobs on the new system, if any, BART would have to extend to employees of Peerless Stages and Greyhound (represented by Local 1225), AC Transit (represented by Local 192), the San Francisco MUNI system and the Southern Pacific Railroad, all of which would be affected by the BART start-up.
Under the 13C agreement, any jobs received by Amalgamated and other union members on this new system were to be determined by further negotiations and, if necessary, arbitration.
In the spring of 1968, the Amalgamated and other unions reached an interim preferential hiring plan with BART. Employees of the existing transit system would be given notice of, and the first opportunity to fill, the available operating and maintenance jobs under standards set by BART.
Despite this agreement, BART had already hired office and technical employees in its pre-operational phases from outside the industry. The hiring of these unorganized workers created an organizing opportunity seized upon by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which had not previously represented transit workers in the Bay area.
SEIU demanded recognition from BART and insisted that the SEIU would protect any newly hired employees against any assault by the workers in the other transit systems who might later be hired for the jobs, despite the Section 13C arrangements BART had reached with the other unions
From the spring of 1968 until July 1972 when an arbitrator’s award under the Section 13C agreement finally set out the order of priority for filling BART jobs, every new hire became further grist for the SEIU organizing mill.
Some 1,105 employees of existing systems made applications under the terms of the arbitrator’s award. By November 1973, however, only 73 ATU-represented employees had reported to work on BART out of a total employees group of almost 600. To complicate matters even further, SEIU threatened a strike if the priority hiring and recognition of seniority under the arbitrator’s award impacted any of the employees it was seeking to organize. Although no strike occurred the Amalgamated and other unions representing Bay Area employees were forced into representation elections for the BART system conducted by a state labor agency. By sheer force of numbers, the SEIU had the upper hand in these elections. Nevertheless, an effective organizing campaign led by International Vice-President John Rowland produced a partial victory for the Amalgamated. With 16 unions competing, the ATU won the operating sub-unit of five separate units established and Local 1555 was born. But the Amalgamated was unable to prevail over the SEIU among the maintenance and clerical employees.
In 1976 ATU 1555 honored for approximately two weeks a strike of the BPOA association at BART.
In 1979 all the unions were locked-out by BART Management for approximately 90 days. There is a difference of opinion as to whether this was a strike or lock-out. ATU 1555 did not strike and in effect was barred from entering BART property. This constituted a lock-out by management.
In July of 1991 ATU was on strike for approximately 45 minutes due to a negotiation impasse, after which time BART asked the governor of California to impose a 60 day cooling off period.
ATU 1555’s membership is currently at approximately 800. Among them are Train Operators, Station Agents, Transportation Clerks, Transportation Secretaries, Foreworkers, Power Support Controllers, Communication Specialists and Education Development Specialists.
ATU Local 1555 officers are dedicated to the best interest of its members and ensuring that its members receive fair wages and benefits for their professional services as employees of BART. And to provide the riding public a safe and efficient transit system.
Certain facts obtained from ATU International 100 year history publication.