Good: BART strike backfires badly for unions

July 9, 2013

By Chris Reed

When San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi took on the enormous pensions that were hollowing out the city’s budget in 2011, nearly all the big name Democrats in the Bay Area wouldn’t back him up. Led by Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein, they instead supported a much more modest reform that had been crafted with public employee unions’ input.

BART1But have times changed in the most liberal chunk of California? Maybe. As John Wildermuth pointed out on Fox & Hounds Daily, the BART strike triggered fury in the Bay Area — with strikers, not management.

“Instead of local politicians joining union workers on the picket line, civic and political leaders pushing behind the scenes to have BART settle and little kids handing out cookies to the strikers, there was plenty of anger and it was all aimed at the union.

“Union leaders failed to recognize that it’s a new day in California. In the past few years, retirees have seen their nest eggs evaporate, people have been forced from their homes and workers who have been employed their entire adult lives suddenly found themselves with no job and no prospects.

“Sure, BART workers have gone four years without a raise, but that average annual salary of $50,000, $60,000 or $70,000, plus healthy benefits, sounds pretty good to people trying to raise a family on part time work or unemployment payments.

“To show just how strong the anti-union sentiment was, the day after the strike ended BART officials were forced to warn commuters not to berate, harass or threaten the workers who were back on the job.”

No longer partisan to question union members’ extreme pay, benefits and clout

stack-of-money-260x173That actually lowballs what BART workers make, according to the San Jose Mercury-News:

“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.”

As I noted last week, 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. The Fox & Hounds piece also leaves out the “step” raises many get just for years on the job.

But the basic point Wildermuth makes is crucial: The understanding that public employee pay and benefits are far too high and are a function of political clout has settled in across the ideological spectrum. When you pay janitors $70,000, that’s not social justice. That’s a giveaway of public resources.

Where from here? The final word goes to Wildermuth:

“Union officials are trying to make lemonade out of their lemon of a walkout, saying they went back to work out of respect for [BART] customers and that it’s up to management to come up with a better, fairer offer before Aug. 4.

“Of course, no union has ever ended a strike when they were convinced they were winning. And if people hated a four-day strike in July, how is another month going to make a new walkout more palatable?

“So the BART unions go into this month of negotiations in worse shape than in the days before the strike.”



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  1. UnTed
    UnTed 9 July, 2013, 08:44

    No pay raise, no pension period – give them a 401K like the private sector, and they join Obamacare! THAT’s MY FINAL OFFER!

    Reply this comment
  2. Ed
    Ed 9 July, 2013, 15:06

    BART strike is not about workers’ greed, it is about what every middle class American across this great nation must stand for and support, a decent pay and benefit package to live and raise a family on with dignity and peace of mind. This is exactly what is being vilified and tabooed in this nation by the corporate owned media, greedy industrialists, Wall Street bankers and their politician underlings.
    People deserve to make a decent living in this country. Pitting one group of workers against another is an old and proven colonialist tactic: divide and conquer. Workers must be smarter than to fall for this old ruse. Workers must unite and demand what they deserve. Ask why is the economy in shambles? Was it because of teachers, transit workers and police officers? No, it is the result of the greed and reckless behavior of fat cat Wall Street bankers. Now, the middle class workers are being forced to pay their mistakes. If middle class workers refuse they are labeled as greedy and out of touch with reality.
    The prevailing argument in the media that one or more class of workers do not have, for example, employer sponsored health insurance therefore, BART workers must follow suite, is ludicrous. This logic is upside down. The argument must about setting BART’s benefit package as a minimum base line for all industries and shame those employers who offer anything less to their workers. Let’s have a race to the top not to the bottom.
    Middle class is being railroaded and trampled upon since the early 1980’s when President Regan fired the flight controllers. The main idea was to roll back the gains that unions fought for in the last century and take us back to when workers had no right and were treated inhumanly as fungible and disposable commodities. Is this what we want to revive? It seems we are taking as granted the very basic and universal work rules that we all enjoy today, like 40- hour work week, two- day weekend, no child labor, lunch break and so on. Where did these rules come from? I can safely assure you they did not come from employers’ generosity coffer. Labor unions fought for every one of them over many years and now they have become the universal rules across all industries. Let’ not start down the slippery slope of taking more and more away from the middle class.
    We as a society must decide how do we want to treat our workers. Do we want them to be poor and deprived, not able to afford the very basic necessities of life like health care, education, and above all a decent pension, or do we want to rejuvenate our shrinking middle class and with it bring back the glory days of this country. Think about it before you criticize BART workers and remember what they gain will eventually be your gain and what they lose will eventually be your loss. Do not bring down your follow middle class workers. Go out there and elevate yourself by demanding what you deserve and make this a better world for all of us.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 10 July, 2013, 09:22

    BART strike is not about workers’ greed, it is about what every middle class American across this great nation must stand for and support, a decent pay and benefit package to live and raise a family on with dignity and peace of mind –

    LOL……Hahhaha…Ed, trougher extraordinaire, take your BS spine elsewhere, the poor and middle class of America is not buying what you’re peddling, AVERAGE janitor making over $100K at BART!!!!! Hahahhahahaa

    Reply this comment
  4. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 10 July, 2013, 09:27

    The funny thing is every word this Ed clown wrote is exactly why the average American is poor, and getting worse everyday, b/c some greedy, SMALL section of GOVERMENT troughers have become ultra greedy and want to TAKE from US so they can live a life of luxury on the backs of the poor. They pay NOTHING into their pensions, not a dime, yet Ed and is commie buddies want MORE, from others who do not even have 1/10th of what BART workers have. Scam central. BTW Ed, why should YOU get 10 times what the poor gets and please let us know HOW your scamming helps the poor.

    Reply this comment
  5. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 10 July, 2013, 09:28

    If what you’re paying your employees is somehow out of line with the local labor market, if it’s not necessary for recruitment and retention, then you have a problem of waste. These six-figure pensions at the state and local level are pushing governments to the brink of bankruptcy. It’s completely wasteful. You have to create pension programs that are more affordable and fair, where you treat government employees no different than private sector employees. Government needs to start setting its salary and benefits in line with the local labor market.

    Reply this comment
  6. Elevate?
    Elevate? 10 July, 2013, 19:25

    Ed, give us you full name and job specifications.

    Reply this comment
  7. S Moderation Douglas
    S Moderation Douglas 10 July, 2013, 21:36

    The Fox & Hounds piece also leaves out the “step” raises many get just for years on the job.
    You guys are fanatically obsessed with this step raise idea. A new worker in a position starts out at a REDUCED PAY RATE. 76% of full pay. It takes four years to reach 100% pay for that position. That’s four “step raises”. If it bothers you so much,pay them top pay to start with, so the new guy with no experience makes as much as a twenty year vet.

    Please don’t attempt to imply that the twenty year employee got twenty “step raises”, in addition to any COLAs that might be negotiated.

    It didn’t happen

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonderdog!
    Rex the Wonderdog! 10 July, 2013, 22:30

    You guys are fanatically obsessed with this step raise idea. A new worker in a position starts out at a REDUCED PAY RATE. 76% of full pay.
    Totally false. They start out at FULL PAY with step increases, they do NOT start at a fractional rate, jeeezzz dougie, stop spinning 😉

    Reply this comment

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