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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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Comment Preferences

  •  The unions need better PR (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, mconvente, DMiller, andalusi

    Article after article -- in the SF Chronicle no less -- has been about how "greedy" the unions are and how pissed off commuters are.  The comment sections are filled with anti-union trolls who spew about how grateful BART employees should be for their scraps, and that since the private sector gets next to nothing now, BART employees should have it the same way.

    •  no chance there (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron, Rosicrucian, andalusi

      I don't think there's anything the corporate media hate more than unions. The Chron's coverage is if anything less skewed than the SJ Merc where union-bashing is the official religion.

      "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

      by esquimaux on Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 01:28:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are lots of PR agencies in the Bay Area (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dirtandiron, Larsstephens
        •  Sure, and several of them are the newspapers (0+ / 0-)

          Unfortunately, the PR agency called the 'San Francisco Chronicle' is working for someone other than (and quite opposed to) the union already. Not to mention more or less all of the TV news teams.

          The PR agency working for the BART workers doesn't stand much of a chance, really.

          •  Do you even know what PR agencies are? (0+ / 0-)

            Apparently not.  PR agencies have nothing to do with newspapers.  They are like marketing agencies and advertising agencies that do projects for companies.  I'm talking about PR agencies like:

            Access Communications
            Launchsquad
            Lewis PR
            Xenophon Strategies, Inc. - This agency by the way focuses on crisis communications, something which the BART union workers could have turned to.

          •  Are you a BART employee? (0+ / 0-)

            You should do a diary on your experience (if you haven't already).

          •  The SF Chronicle has been a 1% paper (0+ / 0-)

            For quite a while. They're infatuated with the genius of venture capital guys, and they really showed their colors during Occupy. Most public sector abuses and outrages occur at the executive level, but the Chronicle and other 1%ers are happy to use those abuses to tarnish working-class public workers.

    •  Yeah. I've had several 'discussions'. (0+ / 0-)

      They all come down to me asking if the person I'm talking to has had a raise in the last five years. The answer is ALWAYS yes. But dammit PLENTY OF OTHER PEOPLE HAVEN'T, and so the BART employees shouldn't get one either!

      Motherfuckers. God, it makes me SO MAD. These people literally don't understand that if you set wages at a constant and you have 10 years of inflation, you end up with dramatically lower wages. And they also don't understand that if you want the government to be able to function, you have to pay the functionaries enough to attract people who are capable of actually doing their goddamn jobs.

      Fuuuuuck.

  •  Aye... (0+ / 0-)

    When will Daily Kos be more objective and start to realize there are bigger problems with BART than just simply BART union salaries?  We need to stop thinking there is such an injustice with BART employee salaries and realize what the real information is on the ground and whether or not it confirms or denies what the BART unions are saying.  Furthermore, the issue is much larger than employee salaries.  And has it occurred to people that we are not getting any information from BART unions that proves BART has an abundance of available cash that is not being used?

    First off, we need to hold BART accountable for the following other reasons as well:

    1)  Smelly train seats and trains
    2)  Rise in crime
    3)  Train tracking problems and delays
    4)  BART continuously arguing for more increases in ticket prices and parking fees while problems persist
    5)  BART's hypocrisy in continuing to make announcements of elevators going out of service when not making announcements escalators are going out of service as well.
    6)  Still more delays on improving the BART trains with the newer and modern trains that BART has already made a design for.

    •  Really? (0+ / 0-)

      Paying BART employees a fair wage should take a backseat to "smelly train seats" and escalator outages?

      Also, have to say it: you realize a broken escalator is still a fully usable set of stairs, right?

      •  Sounds like BART employees already receive a (0+ / 0-)

        fair wage, but live someplace where you can't get by on one.

        I know that I've turned away a few enquiries from potential employers because I cannot afford to live in San Francisco.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 08:35:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wait, were those salaries not good enough? (0+ / 0-)

          There are plenty of opportunities to live in San Francisco and for cheaper.  Try Sunset, Richmond, Bernal Heights and Outer Mission.  Prices aren't too bad over there.

          But it ultimate depends on how high the salary is.

          •  Let's just say it's not cheap out where I live -- (0+ / 0-)

            which is west of Chicago, and, by all I can see, it's REALLY not cheap to live in the bay area.

            And...it looks like you get a bit screwed by progressive taxes, both state and federal.  Make more money because it's expensive to live, slide into new and higher tax brackets.

            As it is, we're moving away from Illinois and looking for a place where we can have nice quality of life without having to make a fortune.  The current economy has taught us the perils of depending on an income.

            LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

            by dinotrac on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 10:46:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I've lived in San Francisco before (0+ / 0-)

              Statements that its expensive everywhere are a bit overblown, especially considering you can get good deals on shared rooms and go to other districts in San Francisco for deals.

              The areas where it's not cheap in San Francisco are predominately in SoMa, Nob Hill, Downtown SF, Mission Bay, North Beach, Russian Hill, Cow Hollow, Marina and Pacific Heights.  Elsewhere, the prices aren't as pricey.

              •  Shared rooms are not an option when you have a (0+ / 0-)

                family.

                LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

                by dinotrac on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 12:12:51 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Then that's a different situation (0+ / 0-)

                  In that aspect, it is definitely more competitive in your situation.

                  Outer Sunset and Outer Richmond apartments are easier for pricing for families but it also depends on where you look.

                  •  I'm thinking more like Oregon, but Idaho, Montana, (0+ / 0-)

                    New Mexico and some others are interesting as well.

                    For that matter, we've checked on some Florida rentals and are amazed to find rents much cheaper than rents here, and beaches within walking distance.

                    Nice -- and I believe that Florida has no state income tax.
                    That's 5 per-cent off the top right there.

                    When competition constrains your ability to earn, it's nice to keep costs down.

                    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

                    by dinotrac on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 12:46:26 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  Cheaper does not mean affordable. (0+ / 0-)

            A family of 4, let's assume that's a 2 BR or 3 BR apartment. Even way out in the avenues, you're probably looking at $2500-$3000/mo on average.

            Many working people have always chosen to live in the cheaper East Bay, but now Oakland is getting hit hard by a bunch of San Francisco defectors, and rents are going through the roof there as well.

      •  Actually they close them off (0+ / 0-)

        You can't use the broken escalators at all. (For the sake of clarity.)

      •  Did you even read my comment? (0+ / 0-)

        "First off, we need to hold BART accountable for the following other reasons as well":

        In fact, the open letters from the BART union workers argues that they were raising a whole host of issues with BART management, not just salaries:

        http://www.keepbartrunning.com/...

        We have tried for months to work with BART’s high-paid negotiators to address critical safety issues in the system.  Workers have died because of the current lighting situation, but BART refuses to address this issue at the bargaining table.  We want to open bathrooms in stations and keep them clean and safe, but BART won’t address that either.  We want to ensure that the system is fully staffed so we have the capacity to keep trains, tracks, and riders safe.
        When I say we need to hold BART accountable for the following reasons as well, I mean AS WELL, not only the other reasons.
    •  BART needs to create MORE parking (0+ / 0-)

      not just jack up the price on the parking already there.

      •  YES! (0+ / 0-)

        More parking at North Berkeley BART station, PLEASE.  I'd like to see parking levels, garages in North Berkeley.  When I normally go to BART, I have to constantly fight for spaces and have to park in the residential neighborhoods, which means I have to be mindful of the time zones.

        I had an interview with a company in San Francisco and due to being pressed time, because I struggled with finding a parking space in the North Berkeley BART station, I ended up parking in the two hour time zone.  After the interview, I immediately went back to North Berkeley via BART and was slapped with a $40 parking fee.

        •  I live several miles from the nearest BART station (0+ / 0-)

          and have no choice other than driving (or taking the limited bus service).  The wait for a single-day pass is one month.  The waitlist for a monthly pass is 2-3 years.  It's rare to have any spaces available by 10 am, let alone after 10.  Not cool, BART!

  •  What would be wrong with... (0+ / 0-)

    ...locking BART management and Union heads into a room and not letting them leave until they reach an agreement?

  •  How Many Increases Has Management Gotten (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SixSixSix

    Or should I say, given themselves.

    •  Yes. Amazing how the local media (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Lone Apple

      Never seems to dig into executive salaries, outrageous perks, and gonzo benefit packages. Clearly, they deserve those, while the rank and file members are left to justify their existence on their own.

      I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Almost all of the outrageous public worker salaries and benefits are enjoyed by executives, and then people use those as examples as a cudgel to smash rank and file workers, who aren't getting any 500K severance packages or any such shit.

  •  Hope the union perseveres (0+ / 0-)

    Asking for a realistic wage and adequate safety are worth a bit extra per ticket. (Well, better if it came out of management pay cuts!)

    •  Fares are already set to go up (0+ / 0-)

      There's a fare increase already in place for next year. No idea if increasing workers' pay will increase ticket price even more. If there is surplus, it shouldn't, but if there is a surplus, why are they raising ticket prices (and parking prices) in the first place? The ways of transit agencies continue to mystify me.

      BART is a weird animal in that it's expensive compared to, say, the NYC subway, but cheaper than something like LIRR (I'm from NYC so that's my basis of comparison). My roundtrip from Berkeley is $7.50.

  •  Bulletproof glass? (0+ / 0-)

    Unlike token clerks of an earlier era, BART agents have no cash. What rash of crimes requires bulletproof glass?

    The Obama Administration doesn't seem to be the only group feeling self-important with unnecessary security devices.

    •  You have to understand... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dianora, SixSixSix

      ...this country is deep in the throes of being utterly terrified by terrorism. Not only are all of us encouraged to be as scared as possible, but the BART employees do disaster drills and all of that sort of stuff. And being told, 'If you're in a situation where someone has a gun, and you're in the booth, you're dead, we've written you off,' well, that's not a particularly pleasant place to be.

      Add to that the fact that, well, Oakland is definitely a fairly high-crime area, and some other stations are in high-crime areas as well. If your job was to sit locked in a booth late at night in a high-crime area, and tell people not to jump over the turnstiles and suchlike, wouldn't you be a little nervous too? Just a little?

      No, clearly you wouldn't, because you're clearly passing judgment on those people who would. Honestly, I'd be pretty offended, if I were one of them.

      •  I used to commute in and out of Coliseum station (0+ / 0-)

        And that place, especially when there were no events going on at the Arena or stadium can be kind of scary. Lots of people just hanging around. Hell, even when the events are going on, you're dealing with thousands of belligerently drunk people. To get to the parking lot, you have to go through a tunnel, and there are a ton of thieves and scumbags hanging out near the parking lots (had my window smashed in my car 3 times in 6 months).

        I'm not sure they need bullet-proof glass, but I can understand their safety concerns for sure.

      •  I'm a regular BART commuter (0+ / 0-)

        so I'm in just as much risk from crazies as the booth attendants. More, probably. A number of passengers have been killed in parking lots in high-crime areas. BART employees? Zero. So with zero dead, this is a solution in search of a problem.

  •  I support BART workers, but believe they need to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew Lazarus

    Agree to pick up their portion of the CalPERS. Give them big raises, but every employee in CA needs to contribute the employee share of the CalPERS investments. Of course, management needs to chip in their share, and make sure those funds are properly invested, and not deferred for other causes are invested in tricky Wall Street vehicles like interest-rate swaps.

    That said, I support the BART workers and they are 100% right when they talk about booming ridership, the concessions they made when the economy sucked, and that they've gone 5 years without a raise. They deserve to share in the surplus, as without them, the system doesn't run at all.

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