As the BART strike enters its third day, we discuss strikes and the tactics of organized labor. Union participation is dwindling and strikes have become increasingly uncommon in recent years, as workers fear putting their jobs in jeopardy during a bad economy. As the economy begins to improve, will workers head to the picket line to protest conditions they may have tolerated in leaner times? And are labor actions that brought change in the 1930s still effective now?

Harley Shaiken, professor of geography and director of the Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley; and specialist in labor issues who is recognized as a leading expert on the U.S. automotive industry
Phil Wilson, labor lawyer and president of the Labor Relations Institute, a management-side labor relations consulting firm

  • Cal M

    Michael, I think a lot of Bay Area residents — while appreciating wholeheartedly the great service that Bart provides — have an extremely hard time feeling sorry for people who are making on average $83,000 a year BEFORE overtime and have guaranteed pensions for life: and yet that’s not enough. There are few — if any — jobs in any industry that pay that well for a relatively low-skill job.

    • thucy

      Didn’t Krasny remark on-air that your figure was off? What source can you cite for the figure you present?

  • Livegreen

    Many middle class incomes in the private sector have not yet recovered from the recession. Our family’s income is still at 1/3 of what it was!

    That government labor would hold us hostage to getting to our job, to benefit theirs, is holding private sector workers hostage for THEIR gain. Also if BART gives these workers in the top 5% raises, BART will be forced to ask to raise OUR taxes when we are still hurting!

    These are facts, not a slogan or an effort to split anyone, as BART workers will try to say to silence our reality and our real economic situation.

    Dismissing or silencing those who speak up (as if we’re in a leftist labor dictatorship) might make BART workers feel better, but it’s STILL reality.

  • Skip Conrad

    Companies have wide discretion in hiring foreign workers. Hiring foreign workers depresses wages and drives down the middle class. Do you agree?

  • thucy

    I make far less than the average BART employee, but my work is simply not as critical to a functioning society and environment as a public transport worker. Even when I worked in ER, my work was not as important. BART workers help reduce carbon emissions. That is THE point.
    I support the BART workers. You want to complain about overpaid workers? Okay, hedge fund managers.

    • Ivan

      You sounds well educated. Not.

    • Hugh

      Ironically, hedge funds get a good % of their investments (if not most) from public sector pension funds.

      • thucy

        That is indeed ironic, but without a specific percent, it is meaningless.
        The relevant question is how do we want to invest? In tax breaks for hedge fund managers? In ongoing subsidies for petroleum for private car use?
        Or in infrastructure that will actually make a dent against global warming. Said infrastructure includes expansion of public transportation, including BART.

  • guest

    California civil service employees are not union members; they are covered by a collective bargaining agreement which is automatically approved by the Legislative who rely on their votes to remain in power.

    Traditional union members in private industry (farm, garment, grocery workers, etc.) risk both their livelihood and jobs in standing up against the power of corporations and their capital.

  • Eric

    Union salaries correlate to the ability of a strike to cause damage to society. BART is a well positioned pain point to disrupt society, so its unions are very well compensated by relative measures. Are they more deserving than other union employees? I think not.

    • thucy

      I’d respectfully suggest that public transport workers are more deserving than other union employees, as they take on more risk with less security, as an hour-by-hour comparison with unionized hospital employees and unionized police indicates.

  • Hugh

    Unions in the public and private sectors are fundamentally different, and you should treat them as such. Private sector unions have been destroyed by low income immigration and globalization.

    To pay for their enormous, unfunded retirement packages, CALPERs and other government pension funds are investing in private equity firms, like Bain Capital, who are destroying private sector union jobs and pay to maximize profit.

    Large government union benefits are leading directly to the destruction of private sector unions!

  • Ben

    Hmmm, guest argues that unions don’t deliver, but that union workers have a better job package than non-union workers. Can’t have it both ways.

  • William – SF

    Who’s going to protect your economic future: the company, your government, or you?

    Is it just me or does it not seem like workers are in a race to the economic bottom?

  • Chris OConnell

    Good show.

  • MattCA12

    Public sector unions are a terrible deal not only for Bay Area citizens, but our state as a whole. The salaries and generous benefits received by government workers are not tied to revenues generated by taxes and fees – much less actual job performance – but rather are based upon negotiated contracts between Democrat legislators and the unions who keep them in power. Government labor is a monopoly, and the cozy arrangement that keeps it that way is anything but democratic.

  • erictremont

    Here is what Professor Shaiken does not want you to know about BART workers:

    “They’re already the top-paid transit system employees in the region and among the best in the nation. They also have free pensions, health care coverage for their entire family for just $92 a month and the same sweet medical insurance deal when they retire after just five years on the job.

    They work only 37½ hours a week. They can call in sick during the workweek and then volunteer for overtime shifts on their days off. The rules exacerbate out-of-control overtime that added in 2012 an average 19 percent to base pay for station agents and 33 percent for train operators.”

    —Contra Costa Times

    • Atlemar

      They don’t get free pensions. BART chose to cover the “member contribution” as part of the employees’ compensation. The member contribution is about 7 percent of pay. By choosing to do this however many years ago, BART gave the employees a raise; by demanding this be reversed, BART is demanding a pay cut of 7 percent and offering (now) a 2 percent raise a year… so at the end of the third year, they’ll finally get more money than they do now.

  • Justice4Trayvon!

    I have listened to Forum for many months now via my SiriusXM radio in my truck. I’ve been a long time supporter of PBS and NPR and as a Professional Truck Driver I’ve listened to the coverage that Forum has given to the BART Strike. Though I don’t live in the Bay Area, my company picks up and delivers to the Bay Area on a daily basis. I have listened to callers, tweets, and facebook post on both sides and I would lean to Forum not presenting a fair and unbiased reporting of this issue. Michael said the other day that a woman had been paid 300K for not working. If I remember correctly, this Bart Employee worked for 20 plus years and instead of taking vacation, sick days, PTO and what not, she collected that after retiring. And you Michael made it sound like a crime had been committed. She earned that money. I support the BART employees and think they have every right to strike. I’ve worked for companies that were Union and non Union, and I can honestly say that some represent their base well, and then there are other Unions that do not do anything but collect dues. We have become a work force that lives in fear of an employer firing them for any reason they choose. There was a time in this country when someone worked for a company and was compensated fairly for the work they did. I clearly remember when I was growing up in the 70’s & 80’s that my father worked for a company that was not union but they signed a contract with him a certain salary and benefits. And when new management came in and terminated him without cause he took them to court and won. Today that is unheard of. I work for .36 cpm with healthcare coverage that cost me, single with no dependents 125.00 a week. I receive no vacation pay. No PTO. No 401k. I work a mandatory 80 hours a week, sometimes more if you calculate all the responsibilities I am tasked with while driving a truck across the country. Last week, my check was 119 dollars because I had to be in the shop having the truck worked on. 119 dollars so that you, all of you, can enjoy your on demand lifestyle that you think you are owed. I am constantly faced with rude and inconsiderate drivers out here that jeopardize my life and others. And even though I am considered a professional, the beautiful government classifies me as “unskilled labor”.

    Unfortunately, until corporations take a step back and stop dehumanizing the very people they rely on to generate revenue for their company, this will continue to go on.

    I encourage everyone, whether union or not to stand up for fair treatment. Organize a shut down and show these companies that they are dependent on you and not the other way around.

  • ARJ

    BART employees impact so many of those taxpayers that actually pay for their salaries and benefits that will still be in place after retirement cannot simply call a strike without realizing their responsibility to those taxpayers who fund there wonderful current packages. Union leaders have to look within themselves to assess whether the risk of a strike may result in their members being replaced by those that are simply willing to be employed. The current state of public transportation such as BART is essential for them to only think about their own benefits when in the overall scheme of it all they are probably better off then half the world population if not even more than that. Its good to be employed and know that the government will provide for you after retirement. Is it really worth risking it all for the sake of small issues that can be resolved with peace full talks rather than shutting the entire system down ? Union Leaders must look within…… a private sector these employees would be replaced within days with much younger and much efficient workers willing to work for lesser than the seniors that are still awaiting retirement. BART has responsibility to those that use it and loyalty towards those that use it as a primary source for transportation. Is it fair to leave them stranded without room for talks or negotiations ? Upon striking no one gets paid…………… can be replaced under guidelines because ultimately you all answer to those tax payers that use the services. Time to realize !

  • Julie Weeks

    I wish I could play the OLD COOT card here = A Baby Boomer with sufficient time on her hands to register indignation at every turn.

    However, what I don’t like about this dispute is how contributing a good portion of wages towards the structure of one’s healthcare and pension options ever became an entitlement issue = rather than an affirmation of responsibility. Most of us worry about how our children and their children will survive in an economy where reality has become a series of fragile paychecks and exorbitant costs.

    And, adding insult to injury – this fight only deepens the ongoing racial divide, which appears here to be thinly wrapped in the currency of us and them. Everyone loses!

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