I was raised riding BART. My father, Alvaro Mauricio Solorzano, landed a job with Bay Area Rapid Transit when I was a small child in the late '70s and worked there until his death in 1997.

My father left his home in Nicaragua as a teen, arriving in San Francisco in the early '60s. After serving in Vietnam he returned to Managua to regroup, where he met my mother. In 1977 they returned to the Bay Area for good. I was three years old.

In those early years we bounced around, with stops in the Mission, Daly City and Pacifica. When my father got his job with BART, it brought stability. We purchased a home in the East Bay suburb of Pittsburg, which was then bisected by a two-lane highway and surrounded by cow pastures. For my father, it was the American Dream.

Not long after my parents purchased their home, tensions between BART management and employees resulted in a three-month strike. I remember my father at the dinner table telling us, his small children, that we should never cross a picket line.

He often worked holidays and took extra shifts — my mother would tease him because he was always in uniform, "just in case" BART called. When I visited him at work with my older sister and little brother, he'd introduce us to his friends and let us ride in the front of the train. We'd honk the horn as the train drove through the Transbay tube. To us, Papi was not a train operator — he owned BART.

My father's salary and benefits afforded us a middle class lifestyle.  BART paid for my braces, Catholic school family road trips and eventually helped finance a university education for me and my siblings.

It's been 16 years since his passing, and I now have a family of my own. Like so many others in the Bay Area, we would suffer the inconvenience of a BART strike. My commute is grueling even without one. But thinking of my father and the life he provided us, I'll get up early and do what it takes to make it work.

And I'll do it gladly.

With a Perspective, I'm Rosa Solorzano.

Rosa Solorzano is a clinical social worker, wife and mother to two small children. She lives in Oakland and commutes daily to San Francisco.

  • Curious

    Glad to see where my money is going. Too bad I can’t afford such a good lifestyle.

    • Xoleil

      Work double shifts and weekend as her father and then you will be able to.

      • Curious

        Nope. I already work those hours. Just don’t get paid extra for doing so.

        • Vino Devotee

          Most people I know put in many extra hours with no OT/Holiday pay for doing so. Not saying that is right or wrong, it is just a fact.

          • Xoleil

            Most white-collar jobs are salaried and as such don’t get OT pay. BART Agents are salaried exempt so they are entitled to OT. It’s important not mix apple with oranges here. If you are salaried exempt and are not getting paid OT, then your employer is taking advantage of you, and it is probably illegal in California.

        • Xoleil

          Then it sounds to me that you should do something about that. Like, get a better job? Otherwise, it is your prerogative not to value your worth.

          • Curious

            That’s the point. The private sector pays what a person is worth. Government sector pays above what a person is worth and the private sector bears the burden. The tipping point is reached when there are too many takers and not enough taxpayers.

  • A Rider

    This posting just reinforces my opinion that the Bart Union is asking for far more than its fair share in this negotiation.

    By the testimony above what they already have is clearly adequate. And it has been reported elsewhere that Bart’s pay and benefits are among the top in the nation. Asking for more and better when the Bart Board has extended their best offer in good faith and a difficult economy – that’s just greed, and fuel for the republican argument that Unions are Bad For Business.

    (I believe in Labor Unions and I disagree with Republicans – but you can bet your bottom dollar that the regressives will be pointing at BART when they start spouting off about Unions.)

    The Bart union needs to stop holding the public hostage and accept a compromise that is reasonable, even if it is less than the high standard they have grown accustomed to.

    Union members are supposed to respect the working class – how many of us are going to find our jobs in jeopardy because we no longer have a reliable way to get to work because Bart refuses to budge on their “best in the nation” compensation package? Hypocrites.

  • disqus_xliNb9wNNd

    I am still waiting for the labor said to do a good job in justifying what it wants. The only defense I’ve heard so far is “don’t ever cross a picket line” and the like. Step it up and justify why you deserve a raise. This is about BART, not the labor movement in general.

    • tee

      I will answer any question you have to the best of my ability!
      It is very difficult to get our side heard the media shares what they want and they put a lot of false information out there.
      We don’t make the money they talk about we do pay for our medical, we don’t/won’t get social security and I have to put money into my retirement if I ever hope to retire! I am just trying to raise a family in the bay area and hold a little piece of the American dream.
      I have been assulted more then once threated to be raped and stabbed, I work ugly hours, holidays but I do it for my family! I am educated not a overpaid GED holder(not that anyone with a ged doesn’t deserve a decent living) It is soooo much more then money…I promise!!!! They never talk about the200, 000, 300,000 and 400,000 dollar salaries they make and the bonuses with the same benifit packages.
      Is it okay that the passengers and the front line workers have to step over feces and urine daily? Do people go to your office to commit suicide? The managers don’t have to step over homeless to get into their building.
      Again it really is about more then money. And I do feel like this is truely a labor movement not just bart. Unions help hold the standards of pay and benefits for the working class, Americans shouldn’t feel lucky to just to have a roof over there heads. Why is it so awful to want a middle class??

      • truth

        If you are not happy with your job; you have the option to resign and find another job that pays you better and better safety. That is the way it works in the private industry. Employees with valuable skills to offer always do good ; It doesn’t do good to non-performers but then the free economy is fair and efficient .
        But for heavens stake don’t hold the riders hostage and threaten to strike.

  • tee

    Thank you for sharing!
    What people don’t seem to understand is that Bart is not experiencing the “difficult economy” that other places have had. Bart has thrived during a failing economy, the salaries of their management, along with the bonuses that go with those salaries reflect this. Not to mention the benifit packages they recieve! Fyi at the hieght of the down fall the workers took a freeze, but for some reason people want to believe everything they hear and read from the media.
    And for the life of me I can not understand this attitude of other working people wanting to bring other working class people down further. If you don’t get the wages and security that you feel you are worth from your place of employment why bring us all down, why not fight for better for yourself and your family?????

    • Curious

      Not everyone can get a job with the government – there have to be people out there actually earning a living and funding government. And all these outrageous salaries and benefits are not sustainable, not earned and are destroying the economy.

      • tee

        Do you think I don’t pay taxes and havent paid taxes my whole working life??? I know we all can’t work for the government I didn’t always I hated the private sector so we can all make choices…I left. And what exactly is the outrageous salary you are referring to?? I’m sorry you feel I don’t work, have you tried to do my job? May I ask what you do for a living?

  • Heidi B.

    I worked with your dad, and he was always so kind to me as a new agent. My father in law luis buitrago also worked with your dad. He was also from nicaragua! Thank for sharing your story. Heidi buitrago

  • Fred

    Methinks it would behoove us all to be brought up to BART employees standards.

    Meanwhile we subsidize Walmart employees via MediCare, SNAP and affordable housing due to how little they are paid, all the time Walmart makes BILLIONS.

    Wake up people!

  • trite

    The days when government workers could expect not to have to pay into their pensions and to pay very little for their health benefits are now sadly gone, and tax payers no longer can afford to maintain unfunded pension liabilities. Most private sector workers in the bay area do not have the luxury of these perks, nor the ability to bring home really very comfortable salaries–but instead they exist often pay-check to pay-check with very little in their retirement accounts (which are not funded), and fearing illness because they have poor health insurance. BART workers represent the way things should be but no longer can be–and they are potentially threatening the economic health and well being of other workers who will have horrendous difficulty getting to those precarious jobs. Of course BART management salaries should be reduced–but at the same time BART workers should not hold everyone else hostage by demanding untenable contracts.

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