With the special election for State Senate District 7 just six days away, candidate Steve Glazer is accusing BART unions of illegally campaigning against him at BART workplaces while his opponent, Susan Bonilla, has accused Glazer of inappropriate campaign activities on BART platforms and property.
Glazer, the Orinda mayor, will face off against Bonilla, a fellow Democrat and State Assembly member, next Tuesday (May 19). Glazer has been an outspoken critic of BART employee unions since a protracted labor dispute led to two strikes in 2013.
Glazer has advocated for new state legislation to prevent California transit unions from striking. He lost a State Assembly primary election in 2014 and is now looking to win the State Senate seat vacated last November by Mark DeSaulnier, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The 7th Senate District includes parts of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, including Pleasanton.
Glazer on Monday morning distributed photos of BART employees holding signs in support of Bonilla on what Glazer said is railyards on BART property in Concord and Richmond and a BART classroom in Hayward. At least one of the photos was posted to the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 website.
Union leaders said the photos show individual political activity that was not union-organized and is therefore not illegal. Unions are prohibited from partisan political campaigning in public workplaces by California law.
Glazer said Monday the photos show SEIU organizers in each location and was incredulous that there was no union involvement in activities at three different locations.
"That's spontaneous activity in a classroom with a union leader in the front of the room?" Glazer said. "They're not being truthful. If this is how they treat the truth, no wonder the BART negotiations went so poorly."
Bonilla responded to the issue early Monday afternoon with a statement accusing Glazer and his supporters of using BART station platforms for campaign practices and denouncing BART employees campaigning on her behalf while at work.
"I am appalled that BART platforms and BART property have been used for electioneering by Steve Glazer, Los Angeles billionaire Bill Bloomfield (who has spent $2 million on Steve Glazer campaign advertising) and by BART employees who were holding my campaign signs," she stated.
"These parties should immediately stop using BART property for electioneering, including candidate Steve Glazer who has repeatedly used internal BART property for self advertising," Bonilla added.
Specifically, Bonilla claimed that Glazer and his supporters used BART platforms and internal BART property for electioneering, promoting Glazer's campaign and taking campaign photos, that they used those photos for campaign website, mailers and advertisements, and that they put up Glazer signs and campaign paraphernalia at BART stations.
Glazer countered later Monday afternoon via social media, posting on Twitter a photo of an apparent permit and an accompanying message to followers, "One of my numerous BART permits for advocacy at BART stations. Plus, I'm not an employee on the taxpayer's dime."
The photo appeared to be of a permit to engage in "free speech expressive activity" at certain BART stations in areas accessible to the general public but not in areas accessible only by ticketed passengers.
SEIU Local 1021 executive director Pete Castelli called the Glazer's allegations that the union was engaged in illegal campaigning a "false, outrageous accusation."
"It just once again shows how anti-working people Steve Glazer really is," Castelli said. "It just shows his true colors: That he is far to the right and has an anti-worker agenda."
While the union is involved in political activity and supports some particular candidates, it is very careful to follow the law at all times, according to Castelli.
The two men in the photos, president of SEIU 1021's BART Professional Chapter John Arantes and Concord Chapter president Dan Jameyson, are volunteer union members engaged in protected speech and not paid SEIU staffers, Castelli said.
Glazer is also alleging that BART management has been complicit in the union activity, saying he thinks it was done with their supervisors aware of what was going on and willing to let it continue.
"I was critical of the union for walking but also equally critical of BART management's incompetence and the BART board's willingness to give management the same exorbitant pay raise as the workers," Glazer said Sunday.
BART spokesman Jim Allison said Monday the agency is concerned about the allegations but "it's too early to jump to conclusions. We need to look into the context and background of this."
"BART employees like anyone else have a right to their opinions, but we will look into the regulations in terms of campaigns and electioneering on our property," Allison said.