BART workers went on strike Monday after talks between BART management and the two main unions failed — and it’s causing commuting headaches across the Bay Area.

Dan Brekke, Editor, KQED Radio News
Randy Rentschler, Director of Legislation and Public Affairs, Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)
Josie Mooney, Chief Negotiator, SEIU 1021
Alicia Trost, Spokeswoman, BART
Michael Cabanatuan, transportation writer, San Francisco Chronicle

  • Tiberius

    @Bob, your attitude is one of jealousy. It’s like the ugliest girl at the prom hoping the prettiest girl trips and falls. Can’t you rise to a more noble attitude? It’s not all about you. Instead of having a petty attitude of you versus them, maybe you should think of it as labor versus management. Because management (the state) has an interest in encouraging you to be petty and fight with other workers. Divide and conquer.

    • Phil

      This should not really be a contentious us vs. them sort of negotiation. This definitely should not be about labor vs. management. It should be about fair compensation and the value of the service provided. It should be about sustainable economics of the situation, but not holding the public as hostage to a union’s difficult and possibly unrealistic demands.

      • Tiberius

        Everyone needs to make a living, and society will have to occasionally interact with people who are seeking a fair wage.
        This strike has a tiny impact compared to for instance the way that everyone is being held hostage by housing market speculators, or how we are all being held hostage by big corporations who have taken over our political system.
        Compare BART workers’ demands to the demands of a CEO for a golden parachute. It’s a vast difference.

  • Bob Fry

    No sympathy here for the strikers. As a state worker I haven’t had a raise in many years, on the contrary, have lost tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid furloughs.

  • erictremont

    May I have a show of hands among Forum listeners? How many of you have experienced stagnating take-home pay over the past 5 years due to salary freezes, increased health care and/or pension contributions, or furloughs? Does the SEIU and the ATU really believe that only their members have suffered during this recession? Do they really expect us to believe that an $8.00 round trip BART fare between the East Bay and S.F. has nothing to do with their compensation demands? Whether or not they are willing to admit it, these unions have declared war on the 99%, including people like me who depend on BART to get to work.

    • Tiberius

      Just a note, $8 round trip is less than what you’d pay to drive there and back. I expect if you look at the costs involved you’ll find it’s the price of oil that’s at the heart of this, not unions, and the price of oil is determined by 1%ers, not the 99%.

      • erictremont

        Sure, and swimming to S.F. is also cheaper than driving. So what? I think you miss my point.

        • Tiberius

          There is a price to pay for transportation.
          It is far less than the price we pay for a CEO’s golden parachute or a real estate speculator’s scams.

          • erictremont

            You seem to suggest that since CEOs and speculators are pillaging the working class, public employee unions have the right to exploit the 99% who pay for their excessive salaries and benefits. I don’t follow your logic and I can’t buy your argument.

          • Phil

            I also think we need to be specific about the issue at hand and not lump everything into the discussion. Everyone can agree that fair wages are important, as are increases that help people manage the cost of living. But some of the items that the union seems to demand are unrealistic. Safety is important for everyone, but capital investments are expensive and they erode the ability to make increases in pay, flexibility of time off, or increased health benefits.

          • erictremont

            Phil, I agree with you. And just to be clear, while I am critical of BART’s unions, I am also a critic of BART’s leadership, including some of their priorities for spending capital. For example, 15 years ago they decided to spend $1.5 billion on the extension to SFO which as far as I can determine mainly had the effect of cannibalizing ridereship on van shuttles. In the meantime, the capital required for modernizing the transbay tube has yet to materialize, as well as the capital for replacing the chronically inoperative escalators and elevators at the original BART stations.

          • Tiberius

            I’m just saying get each problem has a magnitude and you should worry about serious problems, not small ones. The various CEOs’ golden parachutes are like a golden shower raining down on all of us, whereas the BART fares are pretty minor. Why not ask your employer to pay for your commute by the way?

  • Angela

    As a daily BART rider, I am always impressed by the willingness of BART employees to be responsible for the safety and well-being of its riders. As the public, we should be willing to ensure the safety of these employees. If a workplace is unsafe–which it has been reported that injuries among BART employees has risen 50% in 2012–there is no salary that will compensate for this. It’s discouraging to hear the forum commentators as well as the call-ins focused only on salary.

  • Matt

    Two words: Automated trains. Robots don’t need overtime, health care or pensions.

    • Tiberius

      Robots are cost effective for making vehicles but not driving them.

      • Matt

        Care to share?

        • Tiberius

          Let’s do the math. If you have 10 BART trains in operation, the drivers get $60k per year working in 2 shifts per day, that’s $1.2 million for all human drivers per year. Or you can double that if their benefits are top notch.

          The robotic drivers however would easily cost $1 million each, because these high-tech contracts always cost a ton, so you need $10 million for the robotic drivers but these will make mistakes like not seeing someone falling onto the track (deaths are expensive) and need servicing (can be very expensive).

          Easily robots would cost 10 to 20 times what human drivers do.

          • Matt

            Unfortunately condescendingly using the word ‘math’ and pulling numbers from thin air is no more quantitative than saying “Robots are cost effective for making vehicles but not driving them.”

            It would be genuinely interesting to see a cost analysis of automated trains, and I wonder if such data exists for systems such as the SkyTrain in Vancouver. My cursory searches have been fruitless.

            In an existing system, such as BART, one would have to also factor in the cost to the overall economy of lost jobs. I feel like this will (continue to?) be one of the biggest problems facing the nation as we become (even) more automated.

  • Dave

    I was curious and looked up how much a BART pays for the same job I perform. The wage paid is 20% less than what my trade typically pays, and the employee contributions are much higher. I had the chance to go to BART about 10 years ago, and I decided to take another job. Looks like I made the right choice.

    If I were a BART employee, I would have looked for new employment elsewhere a long time ago, and I certainly would be in a mood to strike now.

  • Joan

    If BART workers with all their leverage can’t get back some of the losses from the Great Recession then none of us can. The pauperization of us workers will continue apace.

  • ItsChippp

    Working people in the U.S. have been subsidizing the ever-improving
    quality of life for the very wealthy – people who reap ever-growing
    fortunes even during the recession, while their workers slip closer to
    poverty and the infrastructure that supports all that wealth is
    crumbling. The roads and highways, trains and tunnels, were almost all built at a time when taxes were higher, unions were stronger, and
    middle-class wages were higher (at least as purchasing power, inflation adjusted). Working people, state employees, and others struggling in this economy shouldn’t be turning against BART workers for taking a stand – they should aim their ire where it would do more good. Pardon meif that sounds like the rhetoric of class warfare, but the “war” has been underway for quite a while and I’m just trying to point it out.

  • trite

    Suggest you look at the Contra Costa Times complete listing of salaries for Bart employees, in descending order of compensation.

    • Phil

      Thanks for sharing this…it is eye opening.

  • LiliRo

    I am confused and disgusted by all the people who refuse to support BART workers’ struggle for good treatment because their own employers have treated *them* poorly. Surely we’re a better community than that? What happened to solidarity? What about taking comfort and pride in the fight for workers’ rights, whether or not you’re specifically affected?


    A salaried, management-class, public transit commuter

  • John

    Luckily my employer is letting me work from home this week. I realize that many others are not so fortunate.

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