An under-reported facet of the BART strike concerns the private consultants hired by BART to negotiate with its major unions, SEIU and ATU. BART’s most important, and most expensive consultant is Thomas Hock, a lawyer from Ohio who is the vice president of labor relations for the Veolia Transportation company.
In this week’s East Bay Express I’ll be providing a report on Hock’s record as a consultant and contract negotiator to both public transit authorities and private transit corporations in their recent bargaining sessions with employees. Be sure to check that story out. What follows is some extra information I didn’t fit into that report.
In addition to Hock’s record at Veolia, his past as a businessman is also relevant to his role in the current BART negotiations. Before he was employed by Veolia Hock owned and managed his own private transit corporation called Professional Transit Management, or PTM.
PTM obtained contracts to operate transit systems in over a dozen U.S. cities in the 2000s, including the city buses in Cincinnati, and paratransit buses in as far flung locations as Racine, Wisconsin and Tucson, Arizona.
Veolia purchased PTM from Hock in 2008, folding PTM into its U.S. transit operations. Prior to Veolia’s purchase of PTM, Hock’s company had already garnered a controversial reputation among workers, a reputation that has stuck to Hock personally.
Hock’s controversial reputation stems partly from allegations of racism and discrimination made against PTM by its bus drivers and other employees. The most serious case involved PTM’s Springs Transit facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. PTM ran the city’s bus system under contract. Hock oversaw the operation from his office in Ohio.
PTM’s managers fostered a racist work environment at the Colorado Springs facility, according to records from an official investigation. Latino, African American, and Asian employees of PTM eventually filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC investigated and found that PTM’s managers and white employees were making egregious threats against Latino, Black, and Asian employees. A lawyer for the EEOC called the level of racial harassment “stunning.” An EEOC press release from May of 2007 describes PTM’s civil rights violations in detail:
“In particular, several employees, including supervisors, routinely used egregious ethnic slurs for African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians in the workplace. On one occasion, a co-worker commented that it should not be against the law to shoot Mexican men, women and children or to shoot African Americans and Chinese people. This employee also allegedly stated, “If I had my way I’d gas them [referring to Black employees] like Hitler did the Jews.” There were other threats of violence against minorities including references to “shooting” them and “gassing” them or “killing” them. Many of these remarks were made in front of supervisors who did nothing to stop it and sometimes participated in the abusive behavior. Likewise, management was aware of the hostile environment and did nothing to end it.”
The EEOC sued Thomas Hock and his company and obtained a consent decree from the United States District Court for the District of Colorado in 2007. The consent decree required PTM to implement numerous changes at the Colorado Springs facility in order to wipe away the environment of racist hostility that managers had allowed to flourish. The judge also ordered PTM to pay six employees $450,000 in damages.
Check this week’s EBX for further background on BART’s chief negotiator, Thomas Hock, and his former company PTM.