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By Tim Hunt

Too many BART fiascos

Uploaded: Jul 2, 2013

One thing is clear in the contract dispute between BART workers and management, the taxpayers are the losers.
Given the "skills" required (not including the mechanics who maintain the trains and tracks); station agents and train drivers (chaperones may be a better term because the computers control the trains) are richly compensated with lavish benefit packages. The average salary for a BART worker is $83,000—when benefits and other costs are added in, it costs the agency $116,000 per employee. And the agency currently pays the employees' share of the pension costs.
The agencies' unions are perfectly positioned to hold management and the public hostage—shut down the system—even in high vacation season during the 4th of July week—and traffic is in chaos.
Of course, the former Oakland mayor and current governor deserves credit/blame because he signed the law that allowed public employees to unionize and strike. Even Democrat icon President Franklin Delano Roosevelt observed that public employees should not have the right to unionize because nobody represents the public. In 1937, FDR wrote the following in a letter to president of the Federation of Federal Employees:
" Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. ..
Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that "under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government."

And, yes, I said taxpayers are the losers. Consider the excellent reporting of the Bay Area News Group that has shown just how lacking the oversight of management by the elected Board of Directors has been. Like too many public agencies, there is no limit on how much vacation time can be accrued by senior management. BART gives six weeks after 19 years plus 13 holidays. That is almost nine weeks off every year.
Some agencies allow employees to sell back unused vacation and take it as cash, while others, like BART, simply allow it to accrue. My former employer established a firm limit—once that was hit—no additional vacation would accrue. That's a common practice in the private sector because once vacation is earned, by law, it must be paid.
Former BART general manager Dorothy Dugger, who was forced out and pocketed a handsome settlement because the board fouled up firing her, remained on the payroll for two additional years after she stepped down as GM. That's a board oversight issue and one that obviously needs to be addressed. BART's vacation liability for 290 senior employees, according to BANG reporting, is 135,000 hours or 69 years at BART's 37.5-hour work week.
It is entirely fair to ask who is minding the store? Clearly, nobody.