BART pay, benefits so lavish that workers deserve 0% raise

July 3, 2013

By Chris Reed

We’ve been talking seriously in California since the middle of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s second term as governor about the need to rein in insanely costly public employee benefits, and not just pensions. This has led to progress in cities like San Diego and San Jose and to modest reforms for almost all public employees approved by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2012.

system-mapBut every now and then, a labor fight comes along to remind you of just how ridiculous the situation has gotten and remains in much of California. We’re in the middle of one right now with the strike of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System. The San Jose Mercury-News offers the key details:

“BART employees — including management and nonunion workers — earn an average of about $83,000 annually in gross pay, contribute nothing toward their retirement and $92 monthly to health insurance. Their pay and total compensation are both the highest in the Bay Area among transit agencies.

“BART has offered an 8 percent pay hike over four years and wants workers to pay more toward their medical and pension benefits. The local Service Employees International Union and Amalgamated Transit Union, which represent more than 2,300 train operators, maintenance employees and other blue-collar workers, are looking for a 23 percent pay bump and are willing to contribute more toward benefits, just not as much as management wants.”

All this with a transit system that already is heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

Given that these workers “contribute nothing toward their retirement and $92 monthly to health insurance,” their total annual compensation has to be worth upward of $130,000 a year. (Take a look at all BART pension options here; 60 percent of final pay is just the start for a veteran BART worker who retires.)

Boy, with that extremely generous pay, BART must be a well-managed jewel of a public transit system.

Well, no.

Highest-paid 2012 employee? She didn’t work a day

“With a gross salary of more than $333,000, BART’s highest-paid employee last year wasn’t its general manager, police chief or a worker who racked up gobs of overtime scrubbing grime from filthy train seats.

“It was someone who did no work at all for BART in 2012: Dorothy Dugger, the agency’s former general manager who resigned under pressure more than two years ago.

“Under a lucrative retirement scheme, Dugger, 57, quietly stayed on the books, burning off nearly 80 weeks of unused vacation time, drawing paychecks and full benefits for more than 19 months after she agreed to quit in May 2011, according to an analysis by this newspaper. By remaining on BART’s payroll, she accrued almost two extra months of vacation, while sitting at home drawing a six-figure salary for unused time off.

“The months of extra pay were on top of the $920,000 that BART paid Dugger to leave after the agency’s board botched an effort to fire her by violating public meetings laws.”

That’s also from the Mercury-News.

When governance resembles looting

Wait, the Merc-News has more.

“It turns out that Dugger and other management employees can collect ‘terminal leave benefits.’ When managers are hired, they earn three weeks’ vacation each year, gradually increasing to six weeks after 19 years on the job. They also have 13 holidays. Naturally they don’t use it all, so they’re allowed to save unused vacation and holidays without limits. Many can even add some unused sick leave.

“In San Jose, top management and some unions can accrue time like this for a huge payoff when they retire. BART’s system is even more outrageous. When managers leave, they can use that accrued time to actually stay on the payroll — to continue receiving full salary, incentive pay and health benefits, and to accrue work credit that boosts their subsequent pensions. They even — get this — receive holiday pay and accrue more vacation time that they can use to further extend their time on the payroll.”

The same sort of scam has happened in many other agencies, starting with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The bosses don’t care if the rank-and-file get absurd salaries and benefits — because they’re getting even more absurd salaries and benefits. Who looks out for taxpayers inside BART? Nobody.

How insane. How California.



Write a comment
  1. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 3 July, 2013, 09:02

    It is all a big scam, 2% BUMPS in this economy is 2% more than needed.

    Reply this comment
  2. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 3 July, 2013, 10:39

    You would expect private sector workers who have gone without a raise for five years to ask for one. But public workers are just supposed to sit back and say “Yassah, boss.”

    Chris will not be happy until all public employees work at minimum wage with no benefits. And then he’ll bitch because it didn’t happen sooner.

    Reply this comment
  3. Chuck Page
    Chuck Page 3 July, 2013, 12:07

    ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) is just as bad. They gave themselves a 1.4M salary/benefits increase this year. And they only have about 80 employees. When I asked the Executive Director “Why?”, his explanation was that “his people hadn’t had raises in a couple of years.” Really? Bet he’s happy he doesn’t work in the private sector where many haven’t seen raises in more than just a couple of years. $1.4M to spread across 80 people in ONE YEAR. Damn, that’s a job I want…

    Reply this comment
  4. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 3 July, 2013, 12:57

    You would expect private sector workers who have gone without a raise for five years to ask for one.
    Yes, and they should ask for multi million dollar pensions at age 50, and 15 weeks of vacation and sick time, and unlimited banking of that time, and free healthcare for life……..and free……yes, that is what the private sector should ask for!!!!! Another trough feeder living in Fantasyland of gov workfare:)

    Reply this comment
  5. Union No
    Union No 3 July, 2013, 13:06

    @Steve Leave it to the local Socialists to invoke slavery comparisons for the most overpaid group of people in the public sector. Even without a pay raise in 5 years, these workers are STILL significantly overpaid compared to market rates in the private sector. Gone are the days of lower salary in exchange for more lavish benefits. Now public sector unions want it all. $80k + lavish benefits in a job that requires only a GED? They get more than CA teachers, who have one of the most powerful unions in the country. Marx would be proud. Meanwhile, working CA families are supposed to sit back and say “Yassah, boss” to the unions who are extorting outrageous compensation and benefits while hurting people who rely on BART to get to those inferior jobs needed to feed their families.

    Reply this comment
  6. fred reins
    fred reins 3 July, 2013, 16:58

    We should start bringing over people from India who will work on H1b visas to run the trains. They will live five to an apartment and work for half a market wage. Why do govt workers not have to compete against workers from India and China like everyone else? Believe me, it builds character and keeps you on your toes.

    Reply this comment
  7. Steve Mehlman
    Steve Mehlman 3 July, 2013, 18:43

    “yes, that is what the private sector should ask for!!!!!”

    You are absolutely right, Rexie baby. Instead of bringing down all workers–public and private alike–to WalMart wage and benefit levels, private sector workers should ALSO be demanding decent pay and benefits.

    And Union No, you are in big trouble. You didn’t say “union thug” in your rant. Just an oversight, I’m sure.

    Reply this comment
  8. nick
    nick 3 July, 2013, 19:02

    gov employees remain clueless to real cost of their employment .. most private sector workers now pay hundreds of dollars every month for health premiums and suffer massive deductible running into the thousands every year. if they paid the real cost we’d have a European style system with a 50% reduction in costs for everyone. The system is fucked up & American’s are too self centered and stupid to see it.

    Reply this comment
  9. Queeg
    Queeg 3 July, 2013, 22:05

    Bagdad Steve…..laborers should be free to market their services. Propaganda sickens CWD posters and readers….give us a break.

    Reply this comment
  10. Tough Love
    Tough Love 4 July, 2013, 05:10

    When you add to their “cash pay” the TRUE value (under PROPER accounting) of their pensions and benefits, these workers, as a group, are materially over-compensated … by comparison to anyone in the Private Sector with comparable skills, knowledge, and education.

    Taxpayers not riding the Public Sector gravy train should demand a Ronald Reagan response (ala the air traffic controllers). They should all be fired immediately and new workers should be hired with 75% of the cash pay and 50% of the pensions & benefits.

    Reply this comment
  11. Tough Love
    Tough Love 4 July, 2013, 05:35

    Steve Mehlman, Considering that you are the Union mouthpiece for the 140,000-member California State Employees Assn., your bias is obvious.

    What is also clear is that you think the readers are stupid. NOT getting any raises when your compensation package is ALREADY 25-40% EXCESSIVE is obviously justified.

    And Chris Reed and the Taxpayers don’t want Public Sector workers to earn minimum wage. They Just want them to get the EQUAL “Total Compensation” (cash pay plus pensions plus benefits) to what their Private Sector counterparts get (or if there is no direct Private Sector counterpart, to what a worker with comparable risks, knowledge, and skill sets would get).

    You have a problem with that ?

    Reply this comment
  12. eatingdogfood
    eatingdogfood 4 July, 2013, 06:25

    Fire Them All; PLEASE !!!

    Reply this comment
  13. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 4 July, 2013, 09:11

    You are absolutely right, Rexie baby. Instead of bringing down all workers–public and private alike–to WalMart wage and benefit levels, private sector workers should ALSO be demanding decent pay and benefits.

    [email protected] Stave. There is no hope for you my young Pawdawan! The private sector IS THE MARKET!!! The gov workfare is artificial b/c there is no competition, if the private sector got what the public sector has it would take over 50% of a companies entire revenue!!!!!!! Wake up son.

    Reply this comment
  14. Katherine
    Katherine 4 July, 2013, 09:54

    Those BART workers put passengers as hostage . . . .
    I don’t want my tax go to those greedy BART workers.
    Don’t raise any penny to those BART workers.
    Can BART just open the positions to public? There are tons of people willing to take those positions.
    We should give those BART workers a time limit, if workers don’t come back by the time limit with reasonable reasons. They are fired.

    Reply this comment
  15. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 4 July, 2013, 10:54

    Ms Dugger was a CEO, so nothing surprising in that story; CEO’s usually always negotiate their own contracts which include generous severance packages–nothing new, but don’t blame the union because CEO’s do not belong to unions.

    There is nothing out of line about giving the workers holiday/vacation benefits. The problem is with the unlimited caps. The new pension reform law requires that public employees pay their own shares of the pensions by 2018–but there is a Federal law to deal with first, before that can be required of public workers, who are partially federally-funded.

    Let’s tell the whole story–not just part of it.

    Reply this comment
  16. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 4 July, 2013, 18:31

    There is nothing out of line about giving the workers holiday/vacation benefits.
    Yes it is out of line, when it is 10-20 times what the private sector receives, just like the public pension scam.

    Reply this comment
  17. Queeg
    Queeg 4 July, 2013, 21:13

    Poodle get a government job already….your whines are getting old!

    CWD posters are fools for not getting in on the government job gravy boat!

    Reply this comment
  18. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 4 July, 2013, 23:13

    Oh, Rex, talk about nonsense! Ten to twenty times–please!

    Reply this comment
  19. Tough Love
    Tough Love 5 July, 2013, 08:04


    You’re on a sinking boat. Evidently, you don’t realize that quite yet.

    Reply this comment
  20. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 5 July, 2013, 14:41

    Metrolink had an outsourced, part-time worker driving the train–he killed 26 people, because he was texting instead of watching the lights. It is simply unbelievable to me that the lives of people on a Metrolink depend on the reactions of the driver, instead of an automatic system to stop the train, when a collision with another train is imminent. I hope the BART trains are not operated that way too; if so, I sure would want the operators to be governmentally hired and trained–full time, with benefits.

    Reply this comment
  21. David
    David 5 July, 2013, 15:18

    A friend of mine said, “During the strike… I saw a woman hold two picket signs under her arm get into the drivers seat of a new pPrsche 2 blocks away from a bart station on Monday.”

    I guess she spent all her cash on Porsche and has and needs more funds to keep those.

    Reply this comment
  22. Tough Love
    Tough Love 5 July, 2013, 16:34

    SeeSaw, There are bad operators in every occupation. Example …. the occasional Airline pilot ready to fly while intoxicated.

    Overcompensating ALL Public Sector workers, as is routine today, won’t solve that problem.

    Reply this comment
  23. Ni4Ni
    Ni4Ni 6 July, 2013, 15:42

    BART’s operation isn’t much different than Disney’s Matterhorn ride, except Matterhorn’s operators are intelligent, smiling, engaging… and the Matterhorn’s cars don’t smell like puke & urine.
    Terminate ALL BART employees, kill the union, bring in the National Guard to run the operation until private management can take over and run BART like a sustainable, profitable business.

    Reply this comment
  24. Ni4Ni
    Ni4Ni 6 July, 2013, 16:49

    I hear BART train operators also drive Asiana Airlines’ jetliners on weekends.

    Reply this comment
  25. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 17 July, 2013, 08:52

    Actually, they deserve a pay and benefit CUT — bringly them a little closer to the private sector compensation level. None will leave (except to retire), and hundreds of qualified people will apply for any job opening.

    If the job opening is aggressively advertised, THOUSANDS would apply. Which, of course, is why job openings are only advertised sufficiently to meet minimum legal standards.

    Reply this comment
  26. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 17 July, 2013, 08:56

    Yeah, sure — govt workers are held to higher standards, so we have to pay ’em more. RIIGGGGHHHHHHTTTTTT.

    A couple nights ago Jay Leno’s monologue included the story of a govt bus driver who was caught masturbating while driving a busload of people. He got suspended.

    SUSPENDED???????????? What’s a govt worker got to do the get FIRED???

    Reply this comment
  27. Sigmarlin
    Sigmarlin 30 July, 2013, 18:23

    This is terrible logic. Your salary states $83,000 is the average including MANAGEMENT. Management is not going on strike; they are not in a union. I agree if you want to bitch about bloated salaries and paper pushers who do nothing…but those people are not the union workers going on strike.

    This is some really disingenuous math…

    Reply this comment
  28. Bert
    Bert 31 July, 2013, 11:26

    Those of you who claim that the psychology behind those of us complaining that BART, its management, and its unions are all overpaid amounts to nothing more than jealousy and that we just don’t know how to fight to get paid for what we’re worth seriously have your heads up your sphincters. That is not why you don’t have our support. We know how to fight for what we believe we are worth. We can negotiate our pay with our employers without a union. If that doesn’t work, we negotiate with our feet. We get up and go elsewhere.

    What you guys fail to understand is that your “negotiations” are actually taking hostages. Who do you think pays your wages? Does Gracie just pull your salaries out of her butt? Does she just march over to the Fed and ask them to print you guys more money? No. We, the 400K riders pay your salaries through our fares. We, the millions of bay area taxpayers pay your fares and we expect service for it. When you march out as part of your extortion plan, you kill the livelihood of workers who depend on public transportation to get to their places of work: day laborers, waiters. You kill the business of small business owners who depend on critical mass afforded by public transportation to give them business. You make all of us 73-100 million dollars a day poorer by killing our ability to work.

    So stop accusing us of being ideological shills for right wing nut jobs. We are not ideologues. We are realists, who believe in a balanced approach to building the home we call the bay area. One that values a balance between innovation, growth, personal liberties and the rights to still collectively bargain – a good balance that keeps living here worthwhile. When you throw bargaining out the window and instead hold us hostage under the guise of class warfare when what you’re really doing is extorting the people that live here, all you are forwarding are the interests of crony capitalism.

    Take the 8% raise, get back to work, or else face the wrath of the people. And believe me, the people will protest – both in person outside BART and the SEIU headquarters, and with our votes and money.

    Reply this comment
  29. Eli
    Eli 18 October, 2013, 10:44

    Why aren’t these “people” just fired? It is a low skilled job any high school kid or recovering alcoholic can do with a couple weeks of training. If they don’t like what they are getting, which is ample, then they should leave like all the citizens with REAL courage who work without union despots telling them to strike, how to vote on measures, etc.

    Reply this comment

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