BART unions say one of the biggest impediments to bargaining a fair contract and avoiding another strike is the negotiator the district has chosen to bargain its contract. The Service Employees International Union Local 1021 say the tactics and behavior of Thomas Hock and his company, Professional Transit Management in current and past negotiations suggest a "scorched earth" strategy when dealing with transit unions.
The attorney selected by BART to lead its contract talks has been involved in negotiations that resulted in strikes in seven other transit systems over the past 11 years. "Hock's unwillingness to bargain," caused a three-day transit strike in Austin in 2008, according to union negotiators. Negotiators in Worcester, Mass. accused Hock of "making proposals designed to not make progress" in negotiations with transit workers in that City's 2007 contract talks.
Findings from a public records research report (PDF) compiled by union researchers include:
• Thomas Hock and Professional Transit Management have been named in 47 complaints with the National Labor Relations Board since 2001
• Thomas Hock has been involved in negotiations that have resulted in 7 transit strikes since 2005.
• Thomas Hock and his companies have been accused of multiple forms of discrimination and harassment. Professional Transit Management and Veolia Transportation have been accused of discriminating against employees over race, gender and disability. In 2007, his company paid a $450,000 settlement for "maintaining a hostile work environment for African American, Hispanic and Asian employees" in a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
• During ongoing contract negotiations with Hock in Phoenix in 2010, Veolia executives tried to hire replacement workers. "In the midst of "good faith" negotiations, Veolia executives placed ads in the Arizona Republic seeking temporary bus drivers and have flown in about 200 replacement drivers and supervisors…from all over the country,” according to published press reports.
• Thomas Hock has been accused of conflicts of interest related to his role as a negotiator for Austin's municipal bus operator in 2008 and in a separate lawsuit by the fired CEO of Cincinnati Metro, a transit agency operated by Hock's firm, which is currently on appeal.
Hock's Professional Transit Management, which is owned by transportation giant, Veolia, was given a sole-source, no-bid contract for $399,000 to bargain the District's labor contracts.
"Given Mr. Hock's history, I can only conclude that BART either doesn't check references before it hires consultants or the district specifically wanted someone with a reputation for stonewalling negotiations and causing strikes," said Roxanne Sanchez, president of SEIU local 1021.
"I can tell you that our union sincerely wants to bargain a fair agreement and avoid a strike. The offer BART has on the table right now takes a BART system service worker with two kids making $52,000 per year, trying to live in the Bay Area, and cuts her take-home pay by $1,900 by the end of four years."