FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Was Management to Blame for Two BART Deaths?

by DAVID MACARAy

Two unions—SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 1021 and ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) Local 1555—went on strike against BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) on Friday, October 18, after a week of marathon negotiations broke down without a settlement.

There was a point in negotiations, before the SEIU and ATU were reluctantly forced to pull the plug, when it looked like a compromise deal was possible, but BART management, like so many predatory companies in the U.S., insisted on doing its “copy-cat” number, demanding profound and unacceptable give-backs from the union.

The conventional wisdom governing these decisions is that because America’s unions don’t have anywhere near the public support they used to have, now is the perfect time to strip those contracts of provisions it took years to accrue. And that’s exactly what BART was trying to do.

Of course, the public is going to be furious, given how disruptive and inconvenient the shutdown will be. Commuters who depend on BART for their daily transportation are going to be left to their own devices. Unfortunately, because BART carries about 400,000 round-trip passengers each weekday, it’s going to be a real mess.

But the SEIU and ATU membership is strong and unified. Why? Because they and they alone (not the public, not the media, not the politicians) know exactly what BART is trying to pull. BART management is going after all they can get because they believe the time is right, and the “gettin’ is good.”

But on Saturday, October 19, tragedy struck. Two workers engaged in checking out a section of track believed to be defective were hit by a train and killed. According to an Associated Press report, the two victims were a BART employee and an outside contractor. The driver of the train was reported to be a BART manager, filling in for a striking worker.

Out of respect for the victims and their families, the ATU announced that it would be pulling its 900 picketers on Sunday. As brutal and acrimonious as strikes can be, nobody—neither union or management—ever wants to see anyone seriously hurt or killed. The only thing these two workers were trying to do was get a job done. Their death was tragic.

Yet there are a couple of questions that need to be asked: (1) How tactful are we required to be when one of the victims was a scab—a worker who had purposely crossed a union picket line? And (2) how much slack are we required to give management employees who try to perform jobs they are not qualified to perform?

According to the AP, an official of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) acknowledged that one of the victims of the train accident was an AFSCME member who had voluntarily chosen to cross an authorized union picket line.

Although AFSCME wasn’t part of the strike, its leadership had urged its members to honor SEIU-ATU pickets. Let’s be clear. No one is suggesting that scabs deserve to die. That sentiment may have had some traction in the turbulent 1930s, but it certainly doesn’t today, nor should it. There are lots of ways of dealing with scabs. Wanting them to die ain’t one of them.

But a manager doing a union worker’s job and expecting to do it as well as the union worker, is a whole other deal. Whenever there’s a strike, it’s common for management to claim the shutdown had little effect on production, boasting that management personnel was able to keep the operation running smoothly. They always resort to that little “morale booster,” and it’s always a lie.

What happened on that BART track goes well beyond boosting morale. If that AP report is accurate, and a manager ran over a couple of guys because he was trying to do a job he wasn’t qualified for, it’s more than just a tragedy. It’s criminal.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition), is a former union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net. 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail