(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

After late night negotiations, the four-day BART strike has ended with a tentative agreement between the transit agency and its two major unions. We discuss the negotiations and the impact of the shutdown on the Bay Area. We’ll also check in on the the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the deaths of two BART workers who were struck by a train this weekend while inspecting tracks.

Guests:
Mike Rosenberg, staff writer covering transportation issues at the San Jose Mercury News
Ken Jacobs, chair of the Center for Labor Research and Education at UC Berkeley
Tracey Grose, vice president of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute
Steven Glazer, Orinda City Council Member and organizer of the banBARTstrikes.com on-line petition campaign

  • Livegreen

    I find it ironic that BART unions & Gammon of the EB Express would blame management for keeping trains running when:
    –The facts have not all come out yet;
    –IF things happened the way Gammon & the Unions say, it wouldn’t have happened if BART workers hadn’t been on strike!
    (It’s like the Tea Party blackmailing Obama and then blaming Obama for not giving in!)

    • thucy

      “(It’s like the Tea Party blackmailing Obama and then blaming Obama for not giving in!)”

      You know, I don’t really think BART workers can be accurately compared to the Koch Bros.-funded tea party. In fact, both ideologically and in terms of diversity, your analogy just doesn’t hold up.

      • Livegreen

        I wasn’t comparing their ideology or supporters, thucy. I was comparing their tactics of blackmailing the public. But I know you don’t want to address that, so you won’t.

        • Sam Badger

          It’s not “blackmail” to go on strike. It’s just withholding one’s labor until a fairer price for that labor has been reached. It might suck for commuters, but its within the rights of workers (or should be at least) to go on strike when they feel that their labor is not being compensated for enough. That is an understandable position to hold considering BART managers make six figure incomes and Bay Area CEOs make millions if not billions. BART workers are responsible for safely getting countless people to work safely and on time every day and a part of respecting them for that is also in recognizing their right to not work if BART is trying to cut their benefits.

          The problem isn’t with BART workers striking too much, it’s with every other group of workers in the country not striking enough (admittedly because they usually lack unions).

          • TrainedHistorian

            Again, the problem with your analogy is that BART is not a private sector company. That “fairer wage” for workers will not be paid out of a corporation or captalist’s profits but out of taxes, which in the Bay Area are disproportionately paid by those lower on the income scale: much transit here, including BART, is funded by extremely regressive sales taxes.. You can’t improve working class standards by raising regressive taxes and fares on those who cannot afford cars. Working class living standards will only improve when PRIVATE-SECTOR laborers have more leverage in the labor market (for example if labor is scare rather than overabundant) vis a vis capitalists, not when those whose salary is paid by the lower-income public, demand more money from that lower-income public.

        • thucy

          Well, I did, but I don’t consider a strike to be “blackmailing the public.” I wrote earlier that “I don’t want to support a BART strike, but I also think corporatized Bay Area commuters should be able to understand that a strike is not the worst case scenario.”
          For the record, I’ve lived almost all my life in three cities – NY, Paris, and SF. By far, SF is the most hostile to workers. As the descendant of people who worked thru SF’s 1934 Great Strike (we fed the off-duty workers in our restaurant) I cannot believe what this town has become. It frankly makes me sick the attitudes that people have displayed toward their fellow workers. I live on very low wages, and am not jealous of working class BART workers who do dangerous, exhausting work. I salute them, and am grateful for their service. Lloyd Blankfein, on the other hand…!

          • TrainedHistorian

            But in NYC it’s apparently illegal for public transit workers to strike.

        • alamedakayak

          If you read between the lines, it was in effect the Bart management “blackmailing’ the public…Bart management hired a so-called negotiator, whom is known for throwing gas onto the fire by not fairly negotiating with Unions…All the while knowing public sentiment would not be with the Unions because of the inconvience this strike has caused on the general public. Pretty simple ploy by management….gobbled up by many.

  • thucy

    As a working-class, non-Union member, BART commuter, I fully support the BART workers.
    The animus shown to them in the Bay Area is an indication of how corporate attitudes have overtaken the Bay Area.

    As a native San Franciscan, I’m looking at the NY mayoral election, and am really stunned by how different the politics are in New York. The highly progressive Bill de Blasio (and I mean TRULY progressive in terms of economic equality, rather than a bunch of almost meaningless “progressive” hot-button social issues), who appears poised to win in NY, would never win a primary in SF Bay Area, because there’s hardly any working class left in SF.

  • Bobby

    please sign this petition to ban BART strikes http://www.banbartstrikes.com

  • Aaron

    Your speaker spoke of the economic impact of businesses having less foot traffic, but the flipside was that some businesses close to peoples residences were boosted. I work at a coffee shop in Oakland and during the Bart strike our foot traffic increased by at least half more than usual; all people who were forced to stay close to home. I’m struck by how much business could potentially increase if we chose to stay close to home.

    • Xevioso

      Really? Are you struck by this? Well, I’m struck by how Global Warming will make northern climates warmer, leading to more tourism there (even though it harms other parts of the world). Instead of visiting the tropics, we can all visit Greenland on our vacation.

      That is the type of logic you are using. Ridiculous.

  • Livegreen

    My condolences to the families of the two workers killed. They seem like experienced, dedicated men who loved their jobs.

    There are at least several questions that still need to be answered before assigning blame, to BART management, the Unions or a different cause, namely:

    –Some reports have focussed on the safety policy called “simple approval policy”, that the NTSB has apparently previously ruled is not safe. It is amazing to me that BART management AND unions accept a policy that sounds human sensory based & void of technology or redundancy. (Why are workers allowed on a live track, & why does communication not inform both workers & trains of each other!)

    –Trainees need to be trained to fill positions whether there’s a strike or not. Was there a problem in the training procedure?

    –Was the person doing the training experienced at that job?

    The Tribune is calling the manager a “Training Supervisor” which makes it sound like they had experience at this &/or it was their job. If so the accident could have happened independent of the Union’s decision to strike.

    It seems like instead of concentrating on facts, some are intent on using the tragedy for political gain.

  • thucy

    Great to hear Ken Jacobs on the show. Thank you, Forum, for including him. With all the media bias against the BART workers, Jacobs’ presence is an essential voice of reason.

  • erictremont

    Ken Jacobs is factually incorrect when he implies that BART unions and other public employee unions are somehow preventing a “race to the bottom” by bargaining for higher wages and benefits. In spite of relatively generous compensation packages paid to these unions, overall middle class wages in the Bay Area have stagnated just like everywhere else in the U.S. The unions may be helping their members, but they are not helping the rest of us.

    • thucy

      Eric,
      Why don’t you take on CEO’s with the same level of criticism?

      • erictremont

        I agree 100% that most CEOs, hedge fund managers, and other members of the top 1% are overpaid. My point is that when public employees get higher wages and benefits, much of the cost of these compensation packages is passed on to working stiffs like me.

        • thucy

          I take your point, Eric, but seriously – which costs us more? The RELATIVELY nominal expense of public employee pensions (remember, these are folk who actually provide ESSENTIAL services) or the full-scale piracy enacted by the CEO class?

          • Livegreen

            thucy, I agree with your point here. But it’s a different issue that also needs to be improved. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

          • thucy

            Livegreen,
            I’m worried that you think you agree with my point… when it appears you don’t actually understand my point.
            The very fact that you consider a strike to be a “wrong” on the level of Apple’s tax evasion or the Goldman bailout indicates that you are missing my point entirely.

          • Livegreen

            Thucy, You’re talking apples & BART’s. The two simply aren’t related. I agree corporate bosses make too much money. Obscene amounts.

            I agree workers should have the right to form unions. & I agree that they should have the right to strike.

            But not in cases when it holds the livelihood and welfare of the public hostage. A public which then can’t go and make a living.

            This strike is against the public, not corporate leaders. By ignoring this important difference you are ignoring the public and you are losing support.

          • thucy

            Livegreen,
            Again, you’re missing the point. You’re still talking about overpaid executives, when I REPEATEDLY stated that the issue wasn’t overpaid executives, but tax avoidance and crony capitalism that robs the public of funds for necessary items, e.g., investment in housing, education, and transport infrastructure.

            The consequence of crony capitalism and tech-banking tax evasion which robs the public is… strikes.

          • TrainedHistorian

            You’re projecting a different set of problems onto this one. BART is NOT a private-sector company.BART salary raises are funded by tax or fare increases, Fares are not paid by the very rich, who drive. Transit taxes aredisproportionately paid by lower-income folks because the Bay Area voters kept raising highly regressive sales taxes to fund transit, rather than something more progressive like gasoline taxes.
            Raising salaries and benefits for publicly-funded workers does NOT solve the problem of underpayment for private sector jobs. You just hurt lower-income living standards more.

        • thucy

          The issue is not that CEO’s are overpaid, Eric. The issue is tax avoidance and crony capitalism which makes strikes inevitable.

          Which costs us more – BART pensions, or Apple and other tech companies hiding profits in offshore accounts? Which cost a “working stiff” like you more – BART pensions or Goldman Sachs’ bailout? The AIG bailout?

          Because you don’t SEE Lloyd Blankfein or didn’t see the late Steve Jobs ever, it’s easy not to feel the same level of contempt that many Bay Area people have displayed toward their fellow working class stiffs who work for BART – and who happen to have marginally better terms.

          • erictremont

            I agree that bad corporate actors like Goldman Sachs et. al bear responsibility for the majority of the economic wreckage since 2008, but that doesn’t mean that overpaid, extortionist unions like the ATU and the SEIU deserve to get a free pass. Look at this way: Exxon and Chevron generate much more environmental pollution than any individual household, but that doesn’t mean that I have no right to complain when my obnoxious neighbor dumps toxic waste on my front lawn. Both things have bad consequences.

  • alamedakayak

    Bart management got what it wanted… a strike….why?? Because they know a strike will end up causing laws to be enacted which would prevent any future strikes, thus no more ability for bart workers to ask for any more raises in the future. In effect cutting the unions off at the knees…This agreement is a small price for Bart management to pay for removing the workers’ rights to leverage their workforce against the constant inequities placed on Blue collar working families in the very expensive Bay Area.

    • Xevioso

      Baloney. Bart strikes affect EVERYONE. Downtown SF is a mess when you strike. Maybe if the unions didn’t ask for unreasonable demands, like preventing BART management from switching to electronic pay stubs, people would be more inclined to support them.

      • alamedakayak

        So quickly people forget why there are Unions… Does unfair labor practices ring a bell???? How about the stable living Unions have provided for millions of Americans??? So sorry you had to wait for your Latte while in downtown SF….Oh by the way your favorite barista is looking to join a union too…
        http://www.iww.org/unions/dept600/iu660/starbucks

        • TrainedHistorian

          The problem with your analogy is that BART is not a private sector company. BART Workers are not paid out of a corporation or captalist’s profits but out of taxes, which in the Bay Area are disproportionately paid by those lower on the income scale: much transit here, including BART, is funded by extremely regressive sales taxes.. You can’t improve working class standards by raising regressive taxes and fares on those who cannot afford cars. Working class living standards will only improve when PRIVATE-SECTOR laborers have more leverage in the labor market (for example if labor is scare rather than overabundant) vis a vis capitalists, not when those whose salary is paid by the public dime demand more money from that public.

          A better solution is not paying more to BART workers, but cutting salaries for top BART management.

          • alamedakayak

            You’re missing the larger point….this fight for workers’ rights is born out of unequal and unfair labor practices from all industries public and private. The bart strike is just one of many instances of this. If you think that a better life or existence for the working class will come from those philanthropic souls at the top you too have been fooled. And that is exactly the thinking that keeps these struggles alive…

          • TrainedHistorian

            And you’re missing the larger economic picture. The BART strike is fundamentally different because BART is not a for-profit company: salaries and benefits are funded by regressive taxes and fares, not profits. BART workers, as has been pointed out, are not underpaid relative to private-sector workers. Their management is overpaid: which the workers could have tried to change by demanding salary and benefit cuts for management, rather than imposing a strike on the lower-income workers who have to use transit in the first place. Of course better living standards for the many underpaid private-sector wokers will not come from philanthropic souls at the top–any more than it will come from public sector employees demanding more from the public purse. More livable wages for private-sector workers will only come when there is a tighter labor market so they have enough leverage to demand a higher piece of corporate profits in the form of better wages, benefits, and conditions. But this will not happen,so long as labor market growth (caused these days entirely by excessive immigration, not excessive American fertility) is so high relative to economic growth.

          • alamedakayak

            More people, less work, lower wages and heavy taxation……this is the recipe for strikes and revolutions…This is why people left Europe and other regions long ago and America became what it is, yet those same struggles have followed and entrenched themselves here and we live it everyday. And those on top continue to reach higher highs in terms of compensation. Your point of how much Bart workers make in comparison to private sector workers only illustrates the struggle is there for everyone who is not on top. Bart still serves the public welfare and by no means should the bart workers be vilified for trying to provide a better future for their families. Unionized labor is not what ails America…..Greed at the expense of your neighbor is a more likely culprit.

    • Livegreen

      Bart management didn’t choose to strike. The unions did.

    • Craig C

      Great point!

  • Plazman

    I’d like to see them pull a “Reagan” and lay them all off. THROW THE BUMS OUT!

  • thucy

    Great to hear the caller John, the teamster who put two kids through college on a working-class salary.
    On a recent FORUM segment, the best-selling but now largely forgotten labor novel, “Christ in Concrete” was mentioned in the comments section. It’s amazing that a novel espousing workers’ rights would once have edged out the equally progressive “Grapes of Wrath” on book-of-the-month club back in the 30’s.
    We have really become a callous, winner-take-all society that worships CEO’s and denigrates working-class people.

  • thucy

    I’m thinking about New York 1977, and what police (union members) did to get their point across because they couldn’t strike – it was far more harmful than just letting them strike.
    I don’t want to support a BART strike, but I also think corporatized Bay Area commuters should be able to understand that a strike is not the worst case scenario.

  • trite

    I see this as not being pro or con unions, but about the right to strike when the economic health and welfare of thousands of other workers are affected because they cannot get to work. I am glad that the BART workers are well compensated–but believe that the threat and use of strikes by people in public service is not an appropriate mechanism to achieve their ends.

    • rberryj3

      Trite,

      I agree completely. Franklin Roosevelt even cautioned that public employees should not be allowed to organize a denial of services/strike. He felt the responsibility or these special workers to the citizenry really makes a strike such as what we have just seen unjust. The BART workers, just like today’s Postal Workers, should not be allowed a work stopage. In the Bay area, we have allowed the BART monopoly in the interest of efficiency and safety. The recent strike is just a horrible abuse of that monopoly. That is why other large cities such as Chicago forbid this type of job action (i.e. transit strike).

  • wildthing

    When will the public get it…BART has a management problem. As a result, watch, nobody at BART will be fired for the tragic accident. They keep the same dysfunctional managers on board year after year!

  • Craig C

    It is good that alamedakayak noticed the tactic. I would like to say as a bus operator in the bay area that BART workers do not have the traffic or the customer contact we have, but they have they have the right to earn a decent wage. Please notice how bad things are getting for everyone, and accept that their struggle is your struggle. As a nation of consumers that don’t really produce much for the world anymore, we might look at how the rest of the world perceives us. Look at how little we value service workers.
    A handful of very wealthy people are trying to break apart everything that all of our prior generations have fought so hard to build and some believe them when they lie about unions chasing jobs away and ruining the country. If you hate unions and education and healthcare and pensions because it is screwing up your investment portfolio, you probably aren’t on this site right now. This is inconvenient strike was necessary and it will be politicized. They will try to stop strikes. Fine, prohibit strikes, treat transit workers with the respect they deserve if you expect so much from them. If they are such a necessary part of your life, please allow them a decent wage, benefits, and pensions in line with police and firemen. I’ll tell you right now only about 1% of my co-workers wanted to be transit workers when they grew up. We do these INCREDIBLY difficult jobs for the compensation. You would not want our jobs.

    • thucy

      Bay Area bus drivers are heroes. Toughest job in town. Thanks for your service.

      Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs once stated his firm was “doing God’s work.” But in transporting ordinary people to work and school, in serving elderly and handicapped riders, you transit workers really are doing God’s work.

      THANK YOU.

  • jack

    reporting on this topic is unbalanced. You can not allow someone to place blame on the unions as the guest promoting the band on strikes did, when all the facts point to Bart management pushing the unions to use the only defense they have against unfair negotiations

  • RealityBites13

    Enough with the anti big business and CEO bad, front line worker good BS. Everyone of these lazy front line employees had the ability to work hard in school and get a degree and move into a high paying highly skilled job.
    We are a long way from employees loosing limbs in machinery that was overlooked and brought out strong much needed labor unions. Sorry the time has expired. Bring on the automated trains run by much less employees with higher level of intellect.
    I worked my way through school and still pay off student loans that got me a six figure salary. I work hard everyday and don’t wine for ridiculous work rules that are extortion.

    • Sam Badger

      Someone complaining about “lazy” employees who themselves makes 6 figures is a hypocrite. These people may work just as hard as you and for longer hours.

      • RealityBites13

        Spin Spin Spin. Simply not true. My regular 14 hour days do not get paid overtime. I enjoy working hard. I don’t require pay for days not worked. Reality continues to be the enemy of the right and the left in this country. Sitting in the booth at the station and texting all day must be so difficult.

        • Sam Badger

          OK but you make 6 figures by your own admission. BART employees make a fraction of that.

          Also it is not just “sitting in the booth” and texting all day. Many BART employees, for instance, drive trains and have to stay aware constantly that they are managing the trains in a safe and efficient manner. They need to know what to do in an emergency and be responsive.

          • RealityBites13

            What fraction of the employees fall into the category of “pick the most difficult job” smokescreen? So your saying the other employees that do sit in the booth and text all day should recieve industry appropriate pay and benefits? Oh wait we need a broad brush to increase Union due revenue. Company coolaid and union coolaid all ignore Reality again.

    • alamedakayak

      I bet you work hard everyday…And as soon as your boss applies unfair leverage against you, as to meet his/her bottom line, you had better get it done on their terms or you will be paying those school loans from one of those jobs with your superior intellect…

  • j889294@yahoo.com

    It is unbelievable how one sided the coverage has been on KQED and in general the entire liberal media here. This Forum show had practically no anti union strike input. In case the brilliant people on this program have not realized the definition of middle class has changed in the last 68 years since the end of WWII and that romanticized version of unions. The middle class today is not a high school graduate. The middle class today is college graduates! It is amazing how there has been no coverage about how at $76k a year with health ins., pensions and the call in sick and then make overtime is far more compensation than MANY people who earned bachelor and master degrees make! And these educated people will NEVER get a pension! And most of them had to PAY for that education. This has not been covered at ALL by any of the news media. Why? Why has it been on here and The Chronicle about how $76k is high but not unreasonable in comparison to other transit around the country. Compare the requirements of the job to other jobs that require far more education. And spare me the this is dangerous job blah blah blah . A majority of the strikers are not workers that would be walking around on the tracks. Most of the strikers are those incredibly rude train operators and booth attendants that go no where near the tracks. How much danger are those booth attendants in sitting in their protected cages yelling and berating the PAYING customers? The accident on Saturday gave the liberal media and the union the opportunity to blow it up out of proportion to imply this is how dangerous it is for the majority of BART workers. How disgusting to use this tragedy for financial gain. The facts are not even known about what happened.

    Another error in KQED coverage on here was the blatant lie that BART refused arbitration. It is well documented BART wanted arbitration of the ENTIRE contract not just the pick and choose beneficial parts that the union wanted. Odd how KQED coverage omitted all the facts.

  • MattCA12

    We’re getting exactly what we deserve. By allowing labor monopolies to unionize (BART workers, teachers, government employees), citizens will continue to be held hostage and suffer.

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