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Looking Closely at the BART Unions

Original post made by Daveg, Birdland, on Aug 23, 2013

Looking Closely at the BART Unions
Many different postings (generally by the same person) have attempted (fairly poorly) to cast the BART union’s demands in a favorable light. Multiple sources and links have been provided by other interested readers that show the demands by the unions in the light of their current very favorable contract are not supported by the general public and in fact there is much support to restrict the ability of any transit union to hold hostage the general public. When these facts are presented to some people posting they have responded using extreme language resulting in necessary censoring by the PW. At the same time, they fail to recognize any news organization as impartial, yet cannot provide facts from any news organization that would support the current demands of the BART union. Several polls have shown that the public does not support the union in their unreasonable demands and do support some type of control to avoid any transit union from striking.
Let's look at what the job qualifications are for a BART transit operator, i.e. a candidate needs a high school diploma or GED, a valid California driver’s license and three years of experience “interacting with the general public in a variety of ways”. It’s not that becoming a BART driver requires a lot of experience. The trains are automated, so operators drive them only during emergencies, and then only to speeds up to 25 mph. However the BART union makes it impossible to train new transit operators by not allowing any training if a union worker is working. If management wanted to add more, it would have to put them through special training mandated under the union contract signed after the 1979 labor dispute. Operators also must pass a 15-week training course in safety practices. Under the agency’s contract, however, anyone is barred from even taking the course as long as union BART operators are on the job. In other words, the only time BART can begin training replacement operators is when drivers go out on strike. In addition, BART needs to replace most of its rolling stock and has precious little money. In contrast to private enterprise that would save money for capital improvements, BART needs to do all it can to pay cash out of pocket because there’s no routine reserve for capital equipment replacement partially as a result of the current union contract. Cleaner, more reliable rides can only be afforded by keeping overall employee compensation the same over the next five years. That would be accomplished by asking workers to chip in more for their health and pension benefits, a goal that BART management prizes so much it's willing to give out small wage bumps so each employee's net take-home pay would stay the same. If employees agree, BART would save money over the long term because employees would foot a bigger share of the rising cost of health care and pensions. "Something has to be done. If we keep kicking the can down the road, then our children pay for it," said Terry Moe, a professor of political science at Stanford. "It's not normal for the private sector. This is a huge benefit that workers have had." While government agencies across California grapple with rising health care and pension costs, BART's problem is exacerbated because employees pay a comparatively smaller share of the cost: $92 a month toward health care and nothing toward pensions. "It seems like the large majority of the public is upset with the unions for being rigid," said Sarah Anzia, assistant professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. She said a lot of people realized that "compared to what I contribute toward my retirement or health insurance, this is nothing." The average worker in BART's largest union, the local Service Employees International Union, earned $77,366 in gross pay and $32,235 worth of benefits in 2012. Their average benefits cost is up about 12 percent since 2010 while gross pay has remained roughly flat since their last contract was signed in 2009. In addition, the BART union has unparalleled benefits not enjoyed by any other transit union in California that allows for example;
• 100% taxpayer-funded defined benefit pensions
• union members work less than 40 hours a week
• union members still get step raises
• union members call in sick or take a vacation day and then work on their day off and get paid overtime
• union members continue to receive the $92/month health insurance even after they leave BART
Web Link
Web Link
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When one looks closely at the demands that BART unions are placing before the public, which ultimately ends up paying for those unrealistic demands, is it any surprise that the majority of the public does not support the BART unions?

Comments (5)

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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 24, 2013 at 8:38 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Here is the employment agreement with SEIU Local 1021: Web Link

And ATU Local 1555: Web Link

The report to the Governor by his Board of Investigation: Web Link

Management's last offer (acknowledging BART management is the only voice here): Web Link

The proposal consists of the following offer:

Pay increase: Ten percent over a four-year contract (2.5%, 2.5%, 2.5% and 2.5%). This wage increase includes a swap for the pension contribution as outlined below, which means employees will be fully reimbursed for their pension contribution (or employees will not be impacted with out of pocket costs).

Pension: Employees would begin to contribute 1% of base wages to their pension the first year, and 2%, 3% and 4% in subsequent years.

Healthcare: BART will cap its health insurance payment at the lower cost of either the Kaiser or Blue Shield plus family plan. Any employee wishing to pick a more expensive plan must pay the difference. This offer will not increase health care costs for the overwhelming majority of BART employees, yet it still saves money for the District.

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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 24, 2013 at 8:39 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

There also is the further complication of AC Transit union members rejecting their negotiated settlement: "The contract included a 9.5 percent raise and improved safety conditions, but also called for increased employee contributions to medical benefits." Web Link

Here is why that is worrisome: Web Link "We can win this. AC Transit and BART workers can turn the tide for all working people. But only if we fight together. No to concessionary contracts -- at AC Transit and at BART. Just think of the power that BART and AC Transit workers wield, backed by the community!"

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Posted by Daveg
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 25, 2013 at 9:14 am

Daveg is a registered user.

Interesting article regarding the BART strike and pros, cons of a strike ban. Obvious that the unions have politicians in their pocket. To quote from the article; "BART unions make absurd demands and then sit back while the transit board continues to up it's offers. The longer negotiations continue, the more district directors give away. They face enormous political pressure. A strike could damage the Bay Area economy. Unions threaten to unseat directors in the next election. And state lawmakers, who also depend on labor for campaign contributions, stick their un-wanted noses into the negotiations.
Yet the BART board keeps upping its offer. It started with a 4 percent wage increase over 4 years, doubled it to 8 percent, increased it to 9 percent, and then, just before the cooling off period began, hiked it to 10 percent. The notion that workers should make meaningful payments toward their pensions has eroded. BART directors first asked employees to contribute 2 percent of salary in the first year ratcheting up to 5 percent in the proposed contract's fourth year. That latest board offer seeks only 1 percent, increasing to 4 percent. The district would still bear most of the pension burden. As for health care, the board dropped its request for reasonable cost-sharing.
In short, the board keeps sweetening its offer and the unions have barely budged".
Let's hope that the general population lets the unions know that their unreasonable demands will not be met.
Web Link

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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 25, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Couldn't hurt to write comments to the BART Board. This is a link to their web page that allows input: Web Link

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Posted by sknywench
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Aug 28, 2013 at 8:33 pm

sknywench is a registered user.

Thanks Kathleen, I will use your research and send a letter to the BART Board. The BART Union IS a special interest lobbyist machine. The pensions, salaries, and benefits are absurd especially for the type of job skills required, and the abusives of work regulations are an insult to the taxpayers and ticket holders (such as calling in sick and working the next regularly scheduled shift period in order to collect an overtime rate. I dont hate the players, but I hate the game which is negotiated and protected by the Union.

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