OAKLAND — Less than two weeks before BART workers could resume their strike, union leaders alleged Monday that management's chief negotiator has a long history of engaging in hardball tactics and accused him of engaging in unfair bargaining.
Roxanne Sanchez, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, said Thomas Hock and his company, Professional Transit Management, have been named in 47 complaints with the National Labor Relations Board since 2001 and he's been involved in negotiations that have resulted in seven transit strikes since 2005.
Sanchez alleged that Hock has engaged in “surface bargaining,” which she said is a technique designed to stymie progress and create a public backlash against BART workers.
Sanchez also said Hock is unavailable for 10 of the 14 days remaining before the contract for BART employees expires Aug. 4, and called for BART General Manager Grace Crunican or another top executive to come to the bargaining table to try to reach an agreement.
However, Crunican said she still supports Hock, saying, “He's a great negotiator who has settled a lot of contracts.”
She said Hock has negotiated more than 400 labor contracts since 1972, and in that time only two unfair labor practice charges alleging bad-faith bargaining have been filed against him.
Crunican said one of those complaints was withdrawn by the union that filed it, and in the second case, there was no finding of bad-faith bargaining.
Crunican also alleged that SEIU negotiators haven't been at the bargaining table “40 percent of the time” since contract talks began April 1.
The general manager said she's not at the bargaining table every day, but she's fully informed about the talks and is available at all times.
Members of SEIU Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 — which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers — went on strike July 1. But late July 4, they agreed to extend their previous contract for 30 days until Aug. 4, and return to work in the afternoon July 5.
BART management said state mediators who brokered the 30-day contract extension were informed that Hock wouldn't be available from Wednesday, July 24 to Sunday, July 28 and agreed there would still be ample time to negotiate a contract.
The key issues in the contract talks are wages, employee contributions for health care and retirement costs, and safety.