Botched BART contract leads to calls for GM’s resignation

by Steve Rhodes, on Flickr

by Steve Rhodes, on Flickr

You’d think two strikes was enough, but in true American form, three strikes seems likely.

The saga over BART’s union contracts has entered a rather unexpected chapter. Agency staff are now saying there’s an error in the contract granting six weeks paid family leave. With that in hand, the Board has rejected the contract, and that means another round of negotiations and possibly even another strike.

The blame for this snafu (and I do mean “snafu” in the original sense), according to East Bay Express editor Robert Gammon, lies square on the shoulders of BART General Manager Grace Crunican. It was her idea, he says, to hire Thomas Hock as negotiator, who unions elsewhere have blamed for intransigence and may have made a strike inevitable. And, as it was her idea to train managers to drive trains, he argues, she is also to blame for the fatal crash that killed two BART employees.

And she was well aware of the six week paid leave.

However, after Hock signed the tentative deal, Crunican’s staff said they discovered that he had made a “mistake” by agreeing to the family medical leave provision and that the BART board had never intended to agree to it. This assertion appears to be highly dubious. The San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this week that Hock actually signed off on the provision three months earlier, in July, and so Crunican, who makes $322,000 a year plus benefits, must have been aware of it. If not, then, at minimum, she’s guilty of incompetence or gross negligence.

Although BART has since terminated Hock’s contract, the unions say they have no intention of renegotiating the deal. They contend that the agreement on the family leave benefit was no mistake and that Hock was well aware of what he was doing. However, if the BART board continues to refuse to agree to the tentative deal, then the transit agency will face yet another stalemate — and a possible third strike.

With accusations like this, it’s no wonder Gammon is calling for Crunican to resign or be fired.

Read the whole piece on East Bay Express.

Written by David Edmondson

David Edmondson

David is a native Marinite working in Washington, DC. He writes about how to apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of his home.

1 comment to Botched BART contract leads to calls for GM’s resignation

  • Franz Listen

    Gammon’s argument for the ditching of Crunican is totally unconvincing and misses the bigger story.

    First, Crunican’s lack of executive experience at a transit agency is non-ideal, but I think that there’s more than one legitimate path to the BART GM role.

    Secondly, the recent worker deaths were truly horrible, but I don’t buy the “ignored regulator’s recommendations” angle. Willfully ignoring federal or state rules would be one thing. However, regulators make suggestions all the time, often very expensive ones, that transit agencies cannot afford to implement.

    As for Hock, the labor negotiator, his background is completely irrelevant. He could be a Methodist minister or chemistry professor for all anyone cares. The root problem is that BART is always faced with a choice between courting a probable strike or inflicting long-term financial damage to the agency. The latter is actually the easier choice, since the problems don’t manifest until down the road. It takes guts to do what is needed to run the organization properly for the long term. The Board did a fairly good job this time.

    The real untold story here is not that Crunican and Hock are meanies. It’s that the current BART Board is far less politically sympathetic to BART’s unions than it’s been in the past. Historically, urban members (SF, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond) were absolute union’s sympathizers, while suburban members were more skeptical.

    However, there’s a crop of relatively young, in-town, urbanist Board members who care more about getting a quality transit service than scratching the ATU’s back. They actually care about the transit! Imagine that! Crunican is just the face of this shift and her firing wouldn’t change it.