Will BART Management Wake Up to Reality?
Original post made
by Mike Cherry, Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Aug 1, 2013
Other posters, after salivating over the so-called lavish lifestyle of BART workers, then rather gutlessly close off response channels. Never saw an argument they wouldn't run from, I guess.
A few unmentioned things need to be pointed out:
The stated average wage of BART employees includes some salaried management, and likely contains overtime pay as well. This pushes down the average wage of BART union workers, as the average BART worker likely earns considerably less than 74K per year.
Studies show that 74K is exactly how much is needed for a family of four to stay reasonably above the poverty line in the very expensive Bay Area. Some BART workers are unskilled; some are highly skilled. Their variegated, tiered wages reflect this.
The union demand for a raise is commensurate with projected cost of living increases over the next five years. Moreover, much of their increase will be offset by the sizable shrinkage in medical insurance costs once the ACA (Obamacare) is fully implemented.
Well over half of BART riders make a wage/salary above that of the average BART worker. Over seventy percent choose to ride BART rather than drive their car. They find, in other words, riding BART to be a cost saver relative to the expense of driving one's private auto in and around a very costly region to navigate one's car. Fares for ridership on BART are relatively low as compared to gas, upkeep, parking expenses for auto users.
The corporate media, ever sensitive to the advertising dollars of their corporate masters, have painted the BART workers in a negative way. Why? Because a well-publicized victory for labor will make things increasingly uncomfortable for all employers who pay their workers less than they deserve. In other words, other workers will be impressed by BART workers' victory, and so perhaps use as basis for forming and articulating their own long overdue demands.
The BART workers' demands are reasonable. That public transportation workers in other cities or regions may make less than BART workers should have no bearing on the issue of justice for BART workers. What is more relevant is the following: Since the cannibal Ronald Reagan ate labor for breakfast every morning he was in office, the wealthy have amassed their wealth at a rate of 270% of that of the middle-class - those, that is, who are still working, who haven't lost their jobs to greedy corporate flight and irrational govt downsizing.
Since Reagan's cannibalistic behavior, labor has been in retreat. Unions continue to be busted up, while more and more workers are being forced to rely upon food stamps as a basic survival stratagem for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, fat, wealthy white boys in little boy tea shirts lounge on the golf course and fret about 'unrealistic' workers who dare to think that they deserve a wage that keeps them and their children in the middle class.
Well, labor has decided here to make a stand. As BART workers and most of the rest of us who work to earn a living fully recognize: A victory for BART workers is a victory for all workers.
VIVA BART workers! VIVA American workers! VIVA Justice for all!
Like this comment
Posted by Mike Cherry
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2013 at 11:09 am
What follows is an interesting little opinion piece by John Logan. It is pretty funny how all the anti-union zealots have gotten all lathered up about unions showing no regard for BART riders, but with nary a mention of BART management's disregard. Funny, too, how this view has been muted within the corporate media's faux coverage of the labor issue.
by John Logan, San Francisco State University
How did the BART dispute ever reach this point?
For several weeks now, BART management has mounted a sophisticated PR campaign, stating that its workers are overpaid and unreasonable. But its evidence on employee pay and benefits has been misleading at best; its estimates of average pay include many highly paid managers, thus exaggerating significantly the pay of frontline employees. Likewise, management's statements on employee contributions to health benefits have failed to account for the significant out-of-pocket expenses incurred by many BART employees.
Denigrating your workers in the media may be a winning strategy in the battle for public opinion, but it's a foolhardy one for senior management running an organization whose success depends so heavily on employee commitment and flexibility.
This week's public hearing in Oakland before Governor Brown's three-member investigative panel provided an entirely different version of events from BART's media campaign. During several hours of testimony, union witnesses described in great detail BART management's "Comedy of Errors" bargaining style. If their account is accurate -- and BART did not dispute the specific allegations, though it did add a couple of its own -- this behavior provides almost a textbook example of 'surface bargaining,' i.e., going through the motions of negotiating with no intention of reaching an agreement. Without exception, moreover, union officials stated that this year's BART negotiations were not only the worst ever at BART, but the worst they had ever seen in several decades in the labor movement.
Rather than make a legitimate effort to negotiate a settlement, management has repeatedly employed delaying tactics; it started negotiations in mid-May, rather than in April, as the union had requested; it has engaged in the arbitrary scheduling of meetings; its chief negotiator Tom Hock was, incredibly, unavailable for one-third of the 30-day contract extension period after the July strike; and over the last weekend, management took almost 12 hours to respond to unions' pay and benefit proposal. During those critical final hours, management was, unbeknown to the unions, writing to the Governor to request a 60-day cooling off period, rather than attempting to reach a settlement.
While accusing the unions of excessive contract demands, BART management has made unreasonable and unrealistic bargaining demands of its own: its initial pay and benefits proposal would have meant a 12% cut in real terms for employees who have not had a raise for the past 4 years. At the tail end of bargaining over the weekend, the unions reported that management's last offer was worse than its previous one. Moreover, management has repeatedly negotiated through the media -- even continuing to do so during an agreed-upon gag order -- rather than bargain face-to-face with its unions.
But it doesn't need to be this way. It is instructive to compare the train wreck of contract negotiations at BART with the successful negotiations that just concluded at AC Transit, which involved similar pay and benefits challenges. Despite facing contentious issues, AC Transit management and its union reached an agreement without strikes, contract extensions or cooling-off periods. They sat down together, negotiated in good faith, and got the job done.
Contract negotiations are rarely easy -- especially in an environment of fiscal austerity -- but the AC Transit experience demonstrates that when management and workers are committed to an equitable and sustainable outcome, disparate interests can reach agreement through commonsense compromise. The fundamental obstacle to a similar outcome at BART is that management has neither negotiated in good faith nor shown a genuine desire to avoid a strike. Under the guidance of its chief negotiator Tom Hock -- who is notorious for driving down wages and benefits, as well as driving labor disputes to strikes -- management has steered negotiations almost unstoppably towards the current stalemate.
It's certainly possible that Governor Brown will seek a sixty-day cooling off period come Monday, but it should not have come to this. Settling this dispute will require flexibility and compromise on both sides. In order for that to happen, however, BART management must first end its media campaign, sit down with its unions, and negotiate in good faith.
Like this comment
Posted by Light Brigade
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:37 pm
Whether you like it or not, whether you care to admit or not, the 1% have declared war on the 99%. We are under attack on every front. Unions and Union workers are a prime target in this war. Because Unions are the only organizations in this country that are capable of organizing people from different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, cultures, religions for the single purpose of defending their rights. Unions also have a National and/or International reach. While most third party organizations are either local or irrelevant.
So it is vital for the 1%-ers to marginalize Unions. They've been at it for the past 30 years and they have honed their technique. In that context, the issue at BART, is about more than just raises, pensions and healthcare. It's a matter of principle. It is about sustained attacks on Unions and Union workers. It's about the 99% fighting back.
Whatever the outcome of the BART negotiations, it will have a direct effect on the rest of us. If they win their argument, it puts the rest of us, Union and non-Union alike, in a better position to demand better pay and better working conditions.
If the BART Unions are forced to take concessions it will embolden the 1%-ers and set a bad precedent. There are a number of negotiations coming up next year and they will be directly effected by it.
So BART workers deserve every ounce of support we can muster. They're standing up not just for themselves, but for all of us.
Please pass this on to at least five people especially those who might be affected by the strike. Many thanks. Armean
It's the 1% vs the 99%
BART workers and their Unions are being forced into a strike which may take place as soon as Sunday at midnight. This will cause congestion on roadways and bridges of Bay Area. But while you're sitting in heavy traffic and stewing, don't curse the so called overpaid, lazy Union workers. Acquaint yourself with a few facts first. Of course you know, that you will not get actual facts from the corporate media, only melodrama!
Fact: For BART workers, a strike is a last resort. They are more than willing to sit down and negotiate. It is the Board of Directors who refuses to negotiate. The Board of directors has not made a new offer in the past two months.
Fact: Workers on strike do not get paid. Consequently they can not contribute to benefits such as healthcare. The Board and General Managers continue to get paid, regardless of how unwilling or incompetent they are at resolving labor issues.
Fact: BART's General Manager Grace Crunican sits on the Board of directors of the "Bay Area Council". A group of CEOs and managers dedicated to lowering wages and deteriorating working conditions for all workers. In short, to put profit before people.
Fact: BART Management has fired George Figueroa, the head of the strike team for ATU1555, in retaliation.
Fact: The Board has spent $400,000 to hire a consultant turned negotiator from a private corporation named Veolia Transportation Services. Thomas Hock was brought in through the back door in an underhanded way. He has a reputation for Union-busting. His general strategy is to push Unions into a strike, provoke public anger and frustration against them, forcing them into taking concessions and pay cuts. That is $400,000 not spent on safety measures and upgrades for the paying public.
Fact: The operations of AirBART, the shuttle service between BART's Coliseum/Airport station and Oakland Airport has already been contracted out to Veolia Transportation Services. AirBART tickets are $3.00 per person. AC Transit Bus #73 to the Airport costs $2.10.
Fact: The highest paid BART worker was not a worker at all. She was BART's former
General Manager, Dorothy Dugger who received a salary of $419,000 without doing a single day's work in 2012. That is on top of $920,000 she was given by BART's Board of Directors and the $181,000 pension she draws. SHE IS NON-UNION!
Fact: After retirement, BART workers must live on pension alone. They will not be eligible for Social Security. The average public worker's pension in California is $25,000 a year. Hardly a King's ransom.
Fact: In 2009 BART's Board of directors lied to the workers and misled them into signing away $100,000,000 in benefits and pay. BART workers have not had a raise in four years. BART's latest offer is tantamount to a pay cut not a raise. Unions are asking for an actual raise. Not an imaginary one.
Fact: Part of the concessions the unions made in 2009 was a hiring freeze, that has been in effect for the past four years. Consequently, a great number of BART workers have been shorthanded and have had to put in unreasonable amounts of overtime to keep BART running. The Management and the Board, in a shameless Machiavellian maneuver have factored those overtime payments into the salary of BART workers in order to exaggerate and inflate the numbers and demonize the workers in the eyes of the public. And to pit worker against worker, those who use BART against those who provide the services.
The local media keeps regurgitating these figures without fact-checking or questioning them. Ironically both NY Times and The Nation put the average pay for BART workers up to $15,000 below what the local papers consistently claim.
The overtimes were caused by the arrogance and mismanagement of the Board. If they did not deceive the Unions and did not insist on a hiring freeze, they could have offered more job opportunities to the local communities, put more money into the local economies and the existing BART workers could have gone home and spent more time with their families.
The Management also neglects to mention that they themselves enjoy the most expensive and wasteful benefits. Free laptops, free Blackberrys, free Travel, wining, dining and general boondoggling at the expense of the taxpayers.
Fact: The Management also double counts vacations. One assumes that vacations are included in the base salary. But at BART, due to more creative accounting, it is calculated separately and added on as a "benefit".
Fact: Since 2009, BART employee injuries have risen by 43%. In the past year alone the assault on station agents has risen from 9% to 31%. This statistic includes homicide and rape. Workers are asking for safety measures such as more, better lighting and installation of bullet proof glass. Yet the BART Board of directors refuses to spend a single penny to ensure the survival of its workers and the safety of the public.
Fact: BART revenues have risen to above 718,000,000. Its sales tax revenue has jumped to 207,000,000. (Yes that's money coming out of your pocket) It currently has 125,000,000 in surplus. Yet the Board is unwilling to spend a penny of it in the community or for the community.
The privatization sharks have smelled surplus and are circling. Some Union activists believe that the marginalization of Unions and workers is a step towards future privatization of BART.
Many fear the implementation of the "Wisconsin" labor practices. Governor Brown by his unnecessary involvement has signaled that he will ride the wave of public anger and frustration to introduce legislation which will forbid public workers from going on strike. Such legislations already exist in 35 other states. Workers who defy the law and go on strike can be fined or spend up to one year in prison. In California the only state law prohibiting public workers from striking applies to Firefighters. In the city of San Francisco public workers including Muni are prohibited to strike.
So you see, the future Gridlocks have been brought to you by the members of the BART's Board of Directors.
The six figure 1%-ers!
Not the five figure 99%, working stiffs like you.
Be sure to fully express your gratitude next election year.
Send your "love" to:
Gail Murray, Joel Keller, Rebecca Saltzman, Robert Raburn
John McPartland, Thomas Blalock, Zakhary Mallett
James Fang. Tom Radulovich
And let's not forget the General Manager, the lovely Ms. Crunican: The woman who speaks with a forked tongue.
While us working class people keep our tongues firmly imbedded in our cheeks!