BART, Oakland strike necessary to protect workers 

For several years our local governments were left reeling from the economic crisis we now know was created by Wall St. speculators and big bank crooks. While these "banksters" have largely gone unpunished for their role, the public has paid dearly as politically expedient austerity measures have swept our nation.

The failed results of this approach are all around us: public safety jeopardized, neighborhoods falling into blight and services disappearing.

Across the country, working families are seeing that these policies aren't working. Here in the Bay Area, we are standing up to say enough is enough. It is time for our employers to invest in public services and to ensure the continuity and safety of public infrastructure, which is the backbone of our local economy.

SEIU 1021 is proud to be a leader of this important effort, and the community is standing along with us. The working people of this region know that BART and Oakland workers are demanding better services and safety for residents and riders.

Unfortunately, management continues to cling to an agenda of cuts that puts the safety of residents and riders at risk. Their position is unconscionable at any time, but it is particularly distressing in these final days of the union contracts with BART and Oakland, knowing that if we do not reach agreement by Sunday, a strike could start as early as Monday, July 1.

Oakland city workers believe our employers have short-changed us the much-needed programs and services that allow this community to thrive. Because of a false choice the city has presented, pitting public services against public safety, workers have paid the price.

While city workers have sacrificed to help the city in need, the majority of our workers -- 1,500 -- have been reduced to part time and are without healthcare and job security. They must hold multiple jobs just to make ends meet. These are not the "good jobs" our city deserves.

Today, BART workers are servicing more people, running more trains, and getting more out of the system, but there are fewer workers to support the growing ridership. Combined with the District's refusal to act on workers' health and safety concerns, this has made BART a more dangerous place to work.

BART management has shown a continued disregard for working safety, spending taxpayer dollars on outside attorneys fighting workplace safety rulings. They've proposed eliminating the worker-management safety committee and offered a wage increase as cover to cut vehicle safety inspectors, who make sure the trains are safe to operate and ride. SEIU 1021 will not be a party to selling out worker and rider safety.

Federal law says workplace safety is a mandatory subject of bargaining, but BART negotiators flatly refuse even to discuss our rider and worker safety proposals. Both BART and Oakland have broken federal labor law and SEIU 1021 has filed charges against them in Superior Court.

Their callous, immoral and unlawful disregard for employees and the community has pushed us into crisis.

At some point in time, someone who can has to stand up and say: "This must change." This is that time, and we are those people.

We ask you to join us in this fight on Monday at noon in Frank H.Ogawa Plaza to demand that BART and the City of Oakland stand up to the real culprits, stop scapegoating workers and reinvest in our community.

Roxanne Sanchez is the president of SEIU 1021.

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Roxanne Sanchez

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