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November 21, 2013

BART to reject the contract it wrote, because it didn't read the contract

After an expensive, extremely nasty year-long fight we all thought the BART contract was settled. Except now the BART management is set to reject the contract their people drew up, because they didn't know it included time off to care for sick kids and dying parents. But this article is notable because it also goes into the series of awful decisions BART management made during this contract process. Chiefly, hiring a contract negotiator known for illegal conduct and union busting. BART's General Manager Should Resign | Seven Days | The Weekly News Roundup | East Bay Express
After the news broke late last week that BART's Board of Directors was planning to reject a tentative deal that its own negotiating team had reached with the transit agency's unions, much of the attention focused on a disputed family medical leave provision. BART officials say they made a "mistake" when they agreed earlier this year to a six-week paid family leave benefit, because they contend it will be too costly. In truth, however, the real mistake the BART board made came more than two years ago when it hired Grace Crunican to be the agency's general manager. Crunican, who had no experience overseeing a rail line, promptly ignored warnings about safety at BART from state regulators, and then ultimately presided over a deadly crash that killed two workers last month. She also convinced BART's board earlier this year to hire a contract negotiator who works for a private transportation company that has a history of union busting and illegal behavior. And that negotiator, Thomas Hock, quickly alienated BART union members, portraying them as greedy and out of touch, and then went absent during critical stages of the negotiations — but not before signing the family leave provision that could lead to a third BART strike this year. . . . Hock's typical strategy in union negotiations is to portray union members as being overly greedy and unreasonable. He took the same approach at BART. John Logan, a professor of labor relations at San Francisco State University who closely watched this year's BART negotiations, recently described Hock's attitude as being "poisonous." Union members, as a result, grew angry at the way they were being portrayed to the public, and then hardened their negotiating positions, leading to a prolonged, ugly stalemate and two strikes. Hock also made matters worse by going AWOL during much of the negotiations, saying he was "unavailable," even though taxpayers were paying him $300,000 to reach a deal at the bargaining table. Crunican was no better. She repeatedly refused to sit down with union leaders to hash out their differences despite several requests to do so. Then last month, during the second strike, Crunican green-lighted the decision to train BART managers to drive trains in place of experienced union drivers. It was during one of these training runs that two longtime workers were killed in a crash between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations. And it wasn't until after the crash that Crunican, Hock, and BART reached a tentative deal with the unions. After the deaths, the agency also finally abandoned its rule of forcing track workers to be responsible for their own safety. . . .

November 19, 2013

JP Morgan settles for $13 billion

America's Worst Financial Institution settles for $13 billion, stands to pay billions more in a dozen pending suits. $13 Billion JPMorgan Settlement Includes $4 Billion In Consumer Relief – Consumerist
Today, it’s expected that JPMorgan Chase and various federal agencies will announce a settlement worth a total of $13 billion to put to bed numerous bank-related investigations tied to mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. And about 30% of that money is reportedly earmarked for some form of consumer relief. According to the Wall Street Journal, somewhere between $1.5-1.7 billion will go toward principal write-downs on JPMorgan-held loans where the value of the mortgage is now higher than the value of the house. However, it’s believed that these write-downs will not apply for properties that are still above a certain price threshold. Another $300,000 to $500,000 will be put toward restructuring other loans to reduce monthly payments. Then there is the remaining $2 billion of this relief money, which is still a bit vague at the moment. The Journal reports that some of this will go toward assisting new mortgage originations for low- and moderate-income consumers. A portion may end up going to cleaning up properties in distressed areas or tearing down homes deemed ready for the wrecking ball.