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By Kelly Gullo

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About this blog: When I moved here with my family from the Midwest, I was full of questions. How was I going to meet people? What was a smog check? Where were the farmer's markets? How were my kids getting to school - since school buses were impra...  (More)

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BART vs. We the People: Figuring It All Out

Uploaded: Oct 24, 2013
Adapting to California and its environment has been relatively smooth, for the most part. However, the BART fiasco has somewhat curtailed our happy little bubble of transitioning bliss. I still maintain a deep fondness for this progressive, thriving, metropolis which we now call home, but to be candid, this unfortunate BART strike rankled me into a tizzy.

I think my family has done a pretty good job of reconfiguring ourselves into the workings and everyday happenings of our foreign surroundings. Many parts of California are quite dissimilar to our Midwest backdrop. I like to think when we moved here to this great state, that we adapted swiftly.

With this recent labor debacle, it never occurred to me that we would be dealing with a strike that would leave an entire city helpless. I'm from Detroit, where automotive unions have a lot of sway in a one-horse town. The UAW is quite famous for its own strikes. Detroiters bicker about the same things the BART workers squabble over: low wages, unfair management practices, untenable overtime, and not enough benefits. But the Detroit strikes just don't compare in scale to how the BART strikes affect an entire region of commuters.

When Detroit unions strike, it doesn't send a ripple effect throughout the community in one fell swoop. Their strikes don't shut down a way of life overnight. Detroit strikes are ominous, sometimes cut-throat, and maybe even perilous - but never does an automotive strike snub the community of taxpayers and say, "Yep, sorry customers. Neither side is budging. Your life as you knew it is going to get a whole lot messier."

Californians don't have too many options when their only form of mass transit to the great city of San Francisco and beyond halts to a dead stop. We count on unions and management to resolve its issues before we get put out to pasture to fend for ourselves. Sorry BART, but the pacification of charter buses just doesn't cut it. We count on unions and negotiators to sift through the mass of issues, complaints, paperwork and bureaucracy – and figure it out. But, since we are beholden to this monopoly, we the people are left to pick up the pieces and – you guessed it - figure it out.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican recently issued the following statement pertaining to the tentative agreement: "I won't go into details about the tentative agreement. I will simply say it sets BART on a path of partnerships with union members and helps us to prepare for the future." Why aren't we privy to the details?

The strike is now over (well, tentatively), but it should have been averted. Why isn't there a social responsibility employed along with unions and BART management? What our city had to go through while this company sorted out their nitty-gritty is a shame.

For those who had to deal with the paralyzing commute to jobs and other critical destinations, how did they manage? For the people who didn't have their own form of reliable transportation, what did they do? For the people who had to get up hours earlier than usual just because they knew they'd be snarled up in traffic, how did they cope? For those who were just trying to make ends meet, and who had to deal with a headache placed upon them by two sides that just couldn't figure it out, how did they sort through this nightmare?

During this BART battle, we the people were like children caught within a bitter divorce. These divisions left us to grapple with a big mess and it was left up to us pick up the pieces and muster on with our day.

Who knows what transpired behind closed doors between the feuding teams of union negotiators and upper management, but we the people are the ones who suffered. With such a spotty record now, how are we supposed to trust our one and only commute system? How can we become proactive and be ready if and when another strike happens? Do we need to become citizen superheroes, making sure all attempts at mass transit stoppages are thwarted? Who knows how we are going to resolve this headache in the future. One thing I do know for sure is that we the people need to take care of each other.

Comments

Posted by Mike Cherry, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Yes, Kelly. I feel terribly violated as well. How can we ever trust again after the fiasco, the debacle, left an ENTIRE city paralyzed, helpless?

Yes, and I don't care what was at stake -- you know, workers' standard of living and its bearing upon their families, or safety issues (Safety? What's that?) -- it's just a nitty gritty shame.

Two people may have tragically died on the tracks, but some actually had to get up hours earlier [!] in order to make it to work in the morning. And on their way to work they may have passed picketing workers who had forsaken their wages that day because they felt deeply about this matter -- you know, this matter (whatever it is, we'll not go into details here because that's too hard) that left you, me, and others all rankled into a tizzy.

Yes, We the PEOPLE have been snubbed, snubbed I tell you, by those nonpeople who so cavalierly thought they could snub us so. I can't imagine what the nonpeople wanted, what was at stake, what kind of opposition they were facing, whether it was reasonable opposition or not. Isn't it bad enough to call it a fiasco and a debacle?


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

I will be interested in the final details of the settlement. There still needs to be a correlation between responsibility and earned wages. Employees need to contribute to their retirement fund and more toward their benefits. Mr. Cherry loves to talk about standard of living, but not the myriad perks that should be recognized, if not taxed, as income.

Safety is vital, for employees and their customers. It would appear customers will be left out of this equation, unless a bond is floated and/or fares are raised. It will also be interesting to see what happens to ridership if fares increase. It could be difficult to increase ridership (and afford an unearned bonus to union members) with increased fares, fares that will impact the some 49% of riders who make less than BART employees.

Yes, this was a fiasco and a debacle, most particularly for the families who lost loved ones. With that in mind, it is easy to make light of customers being inconvenienced or to play up how horrible it was for union members to lose some pay even though, as pointed out on another thread, this was by choice of the membership, not because union leaders guided them to this decision.

As one editorial pointed out, this was lose, lose, lose.


Posted by Mike Cherry, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Yes, those irksome perks that Kathleen can't extract from her own personal tizzy. Like membership in clubs, free passes to corporate boxes at entertainment and sports events, junkets to foreign lands with free hotels, meals and transportation in order to discuss really important issues that can only be discussed abroad? Nope. Something far more egregious: conscienceless Bart workers get to ride the Bart trains for free, thereby placing inordinate strains and stresses upon the already over-encumbered rail cars. Alas, what is a penny-pinching taxpayer to do?

Safety issues. Yes, rather than explore what they might be, how they figured into workers' demands, let's just, as Kathleen suggests, speculate about their cost. Of course. Why didn't I think of that? I guess I just get tripped up on safety as being a pretty important issue. You see, if we were to really care about public safety, including the safety of workers on the job, we'd make it safe. Period. No questions. And if penny-pinching righties were to squawk, as they are wont to do, well let them. They will no matter what anyway.

Thanks to Kathleen for her well-thought out and perspicuously articulated insight: lose, lose, lose. But of course everyone almost always loses in a strike. Its the breathless condemnation of the strike, with little knowledgeable backing, combined with an exclusion of consideration for the workers themselves, that is enough to just rankle one into a tizzy.

Finally, this pipedream of an idea about correlation between 'responsibility and wages' is just too funny. It is nothing but a ruse to allow the squawkers to endlessly complain about wages of Bart workers being higher than approximately 1/2 the Bart riders ... and lower than the other half. Whatever metaphysical illumination we're supposed to glean from that. I wonder what the wages are compared with owners of luxury cars, SUVs, sailboat owners? Perhaps Kathleen will find a link for us on that question. Go to it, Kathleen!


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 6:22 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

There was money, one time source, for safety, but it's going home in paychecks instead. So much for it being a priority for the unions. You never answered what the permanent source of funding is for the very permanent raises.

I'd like to know where you learned you can have luxury cars and more simply because they exist (and gosh darn it, other people have them) without looking at what it takes to have that kind of purchasing power. One does not get to earn what others make without the education, talent, ability to invent, investment, or entrepreneurialship required (or maybe inherit from a relative or win the lottery).


Posted by Tom, a resident of Castlewood,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 8:42 am

The BART strike powerfully illustrates that public employee unions are inappropriate. When a group of dissatisfied (many would say greedy) employees can so profoundly affect the lives of the public, it is time to disallow public unionization. Of course in ultra-liberal California this is not going to happen especially with a super-majority of democrats in Sacramento. At the least lawmakers should implement binding arbitration therefore outlawing strikes.


Posted by Mike Cherry, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:48 am

Kathleen, that I do not respond to your obsessive concern about 'where the permanent funding is' has no bearing on any of my validity claims or how I've exposed how ridiculously hollow are the claims raised by you and Kelly. I do seriously doubt you have any idea whatsoever what workers' earnings are in relation to monies spent on safety; your claim about workers taking the funds for safety is false.

As for your question about sailboats, inheritances, and the like, suffice it to say that your question tells readers more about who is raising the question, and the maturity of her thought, than it does about me. If you can't get past that kind of a question, I'm afraid I'll need to leave you behind.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Mike Cherry, there is a fundamental truth that you have been ignoring and are ignoring now. The truth is that any dollar that BART pays to a worker, to a management employee, to a supplier for rail cars, to PG&E for electricity, or for anything else, every dollar has to come from somewhere.

I trust BART management to not overpay for items like electricity and rail cars. If they overpay, those extra dollars have to come from somewhere - fares and taxes are the only choices. If PG&E was charging BART a premium for its power, you can bet BART would make it known and every politician would be on PG&E's case to lower rates.

I also trust BART management to not overpay for labor. Why wouldn't those same politicians that would stand against PG&E take a stand against overpaying for labor? There must be a benefit for the politicians not do so, and there's the answer.


Posted by Anti-union, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Jerry Brown legalized CA PUBLIC unions in the mid 1980s when he was Governor Moonbeam. Since he created this problem, he should do the honorable thing by freeing taxpayers from the current unlimited excesses and demands.


Posted by Kelly Gullo, a resident of Pleasanton Heights,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I am a novice to this whole blogging experiment. This latest piece about the BART strike was written in a neutral tone. The point of my posts is to merely get a good discussion going on: Latest Tri Valley Happenings, Best Places For a Jog, Best Dive Bars, What Happens When Your House Gets Termites, etc. You know… really important stuff!

I love writing, great discussions, and living in Pleasanton. That's why I became a 'New Beginnings' blogger and posted the latest topic about the BART strike and how it "rankled me into a tizzy." No, this wasn't an Armageddon. This wasn't life altering. But this strike, and the melee it left the commuters to sort out, was an avertable debacle.

The point is that this is a 'blog' and not a news piece. I love journalism, but am not writing this blog as a journalist. I don't take myself too seriously and can take criticism – when it's deserved. I do have a strong disrespect for online bullies, pot-stirrers, and drama junkies who like to poke, pinch, and prod at their targeted victims until their victims shout "Uncle."

Bullies around the world: It's time to grow up. Class Noogie-Givers: Grow up. Adult bullies: Stop wasting your valuable time going to town hall meetings to yell and smash fists on tables and kick chairs around because Joe Schmo is installing a shed down the road that violates zoning laws. Instead of creating hullabaloo and negative energy because there's nothing else to do on a Sunday evening, go get some ice cream. Go cut an elderly woman's grass. Go visit your long-lost relative and talk about the old days. Go take an art class. Read a book about a subject you don't entirely understand. Open your mind. Smile at a toddler. Laugh at a dumb joke. Don't take yourself so seriously.

Add to any future discussion with your own words of wisdom and experience. But don't be a troll. It's beneath me, and it's beneath you.



Posted by Hank Eron, a resident of Valley Trails,
on Oct 30, 2013 at 9:35 pm

What happened to Mike Cherry's recent comment? It just disappeared from the screen. Was it that he urged someone to take responsibility for their words? Yes, that definitely deserves to be censored.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 31, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Don't expect a reasonable response from you know who!

She's way to cool to be honest and not punishing you for being curious.

pome dedicated to miss thing:

go to the liberry, drink boiling hot lemonade, stomp a ballon, cut the cheese,
cry foul, sign up for your own blog and pray for mercy, speak of wisdom and mercy, don't be a nerd...tee hee hee...but don't be a stool...

i rest my case...


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