• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683.


Was Management to Blame for Two BART Deaths?


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

October 13, 2015
Dave Lindorff
US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
Steve Martinot
The Politics of Prisons and Prisoners
Heidi Morrison
A Portrait of an Immigrant Named Millie, Drawn From Her Funeral
Andre Vltchek
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Jeremy Malcolm
All Rights Reserved: Now We Know the Final TTP is Everything We Feared
Paul Craig Roberts
Recognizing Neocon Failure: Has Obama Finally Come to His Senses?
Theodoros Papadopoulos
The EU Has Lost the Plot in Ukraine
Roger Annis
Ukraine Threatened by Government Negligence Over Polio
Matthew Stanton
The Vapid Vote
Louisa Willcox
Tracking the Grizzly’s Number One Killer
Binoy Kampmark
Assange and the Village Gossipers
Robert Koehler
Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime
Jon Flanders
Railroad Workers Fight Proposed Job Consolidation
Mel Gurtov
Manipulating Reality: Facebook Is Listening to You
Mark Hand
Passion and Pain: Photographer Trains Human Trafficking Survivors
October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid