Figures holding signs saying "on strike."
Unions and management negotiated late into the night and will resume negotiations early in the afternoon (Pacific time) in an attempt to reach a deal ending the strike that has closed the Bay Area Rapid Transit system since Monday. The strike has caused massive gridlock around the Bay Area as many BART riders attempt to drive to work.

In addition to asking for their first raise in five years—and rejecting what they see as inadequate offers from management on that front—the unions are asking for management to address safety issues in the negotiations, "including bulletproof glass in station booths and improved lighting in tunnels." BART management, seeking to make the workers look greedy and overpaid, dismisses the safety requests as a "smoke screen" and has exaggerated the pay levels for workers, insisting it averages $71,000 before overtime, when:

According to salary data scraped by journalist John Osborn and accumulated by the Bay Area News Group last year, average base salary for both station agents and full time train operators is around $56,000 a year. (Add to this the average overtime pay of around $10,000 for station agents and $17,000 for full time train operators.)

That salary may be well above the annual earnings for someone making minimum wage, but, as The Nation points out, consider that a recent study by the Oakland-based Insight Center for Community Economic Development found that a family of four needed about $74,341 to get by in 2011—an increase of more than $12,000 three years prior.

There can be no doubt these workers are important to the Bay Area—not only are commuters sitting in traffic longer, but that gridlock is having a serious environmental impact. After five years and earlier concessions, they deserve a real raise.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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