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BART Strike & Oscar Grant: strike hampered by police racism

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For weeks now, BART management and labor have been arguing over who should give up what on the eve of the expiration of contracts with the five unions that represent BART workers. But there's a problem: the matter of the murder of Oscar Grant and the revelation that another BART officer used a racial slur, and this was captured in a new video, raise questions regarding labor's moral standing to strike.

While BART's police can't strike, as one officer told me, the unions essentially represent the labor issues for the police. Thus, the use of the racial slur by a BART officer with BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, coupled with the murder by Mehserle, opens the accusation that it was a hate crime. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it was officer Tony Pirone who yelled "Bitch-ass N__, right?" As he was hitting Grant while Grant was on the ground.

While Pirone claims he was responding to something Grant said, there's no record or video backing his claim. What I think happened was Pirone may have overheard someone else say this but as Pirone is white, it's not likely someone would use that terms against him, especially since he's a police officer. But Pirone leaves himself open to another interpretation: that he was saying to Grant he's a "Bitch-ass N__, and then used the term "right?" as a way of affirming his own comment about Grant.

If so, and I think it is, that's a clear hate crime. Period. End of discussion.

I don't think BART workers want to be associated with this kind of behavior, but that's a looming possibility. BART workers are already seen to be richer than their riders, many who are like Oscar Grant, poor. So here we are with BART workers unwilling to take payroll cuts to maintain service, asking for a three-percent raise when everyone in the public sector's trying to save their jobs, and now we have two BART police officers expressing the ultimate dislike for a passenger due to his skin color. It also opens this question: to what degree do BART police conduct racial profiling?

A good friend of mine in law enforcement told me that many of the people recruited to become officers are white, suburban in their upbringing, not experienced in working with or befriending people of color. That must change.

The Strike Threat and The Race Problem

It's already clear many riders I talked to are concerned about the possible loss of service, but just wait until they get wind of these racial problems!

If BART's unions are going to achieve any degree of credibility in this matter, they've got to have the police address their problems with racism and issue an apology to the black community. The unions have no right to threaten a strike that disproportionally harms the poor and minority after one of their own working partners, represented by two BART police workers, apparently expressed dislike for and then shot a man who was poor and African American, because was poor and African American.


If you want to keep up with the BART labor issue as it unfolds, I recommend you visit BARTLabor.com, a good and comprehensive website explaining just what's going on with the BART Strike and providing news updates.
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