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San Francisco’s Pampered Transit Employees on Strike

800px-Orinda_BART_-_001

Forty thousand San Franciscans accustomed to using the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) were left scrambling today as 2,300-plus BART workers are on strike. Labor contracts for these employees expired at midnight without a new deal in place, as the city and labor unions couldn’t agree on pay, pension contributions, and medical costs. The Mercury News reports:

“We have no choice but (to) leave the table and inform the riding public with enough time for them to make other arrangements for Monday,” John Arantes, president of the local Service Employees International Union, said Saturday evening. That left BART management with no one to talk to, and negotiations were scheduled to resume at 11 a.m. on Sunday — if the unions show up. [...]

Leaders from the local Amalgamated Transit Union, the other major union, said on Saturday morning that they were headed to BART headquarters in Oakland “with their suitcases packed, ready to stay until a new contract is negotiated and avert a strike.” But that optimism did not last long, and the workers packed up and left at 4 p.m.

According to the report, the average BART worker made $83,157 in gross pay last year (up four percent from 2010). A 1 percent increase already set to kick in could have been buttressed by an additional 8 percent wage increase offered by the city, pushing the average worker’s gross pay to $90,600 by 2016. That fell short of the union proposal for 23 percent pay increases.

BART management also offered “meaningful reductions” to employee pension and health care contributions, but that didn’t pass muster with union leadership. The SEIU and Amalgamated Transit Union want their Bay Area members to rake in more than $100,000 a year on average, with comfy pension packages at no personal cost to boot.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with public employees getting paid handsomely. If San Francisco were already fulfilling its obligations to all its citizens and still had a little left over, we would be the first to say that some of that money should go toward generous pay and benefit packages for hard-working city employees.

Unfortunately, San Francisco’s expenses are growing 12 percent faster than its revenues, and an alarming 12 percent of its population (96,550 people) now lives below the poverty line. As always, labor unions are asking the city to lavish funds on its members at the expense of badly needed expenditures for other vital social services.

The question now is which side the majority of San Francisco citizens will chose to support.

[Image of empty BART train courtesy of Wikimedia]

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  • Corlyss

    I wonder what the average salary of the riders is.

    • Andrew Allison

      Are you suggesting that service providers should be paid based on the average salary of their customers? Just askin’ ;>)

      • ojfl

        I think Corlyss is making the case that people who potentially make less than the striking people might not be so sympathetic to their cause Andrew.

        • Andrew Allison

          That was the point of the original blog entry. If I misinterpreted Corlyss’ response, I apologise.

          • ojfl

            I will let Corlyss speak for him or herself Andrew. You could have been right all along.

      • Corlyss

        Wouldn’t be a bad idea, no? ;-)
        But I was thinkin’ what OJ suggested. The striking transit workers are public employees; their strike is forcing the people who pay their salaries to lose money or vacation time, maybe for some in dire straights even their jobs. The riders ought to take that into account. I agree with WRM, and I’d even add that striking public employees are never punished by the administrations those employees bought and paid for, but the voters can punish the pols that make up those administrations. Granted, it don’t happen that often for whatever reasons, but under our system of government it could if the voters ever got any backbone.

    • http://myindigolives.wordpress.com/ Ellie K

      I’d hazard a guess that the average salary of riders is quite low. BART served the East Bay and South S.F. commuters into S.F, as I recall. BART never got closer than 50 miles from Silicon Valley or San M. County. Those areas were covered by CalTrain and nice public buses which I used when I worked at IBM. BART employees *do* earn quite a lot, possibly more than most of their passengers. The public buses to IBM, Fairchild, Intel, AMD are no longer in service. There are private buses for Google and Facebook employees, who live in S.F. but work in Silicon Valley. I don’t know what the problem is, as Bay Area property taxes are high, as are property values.

  • Tom Lindmark

    It would appear that BART is somewhat inefficient as well. Based on your numbers one BARTworker is able to move 17.4 riders. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Transportation_Authority_(New_York)) indicates the New York MTA moves 8.5 million riders per day with 65,000 workers or 130 riders per worker.

  • Phil Schippmann

    This article could have used some basic research. BART is a regional transit agency, and not a San Francisco agency. San Francisco’s transit agency is called MUNI, BART is a separate entity. So when the author bases his conclusions on whether San Francisco is meeting its obligations to its citizens, he is at best lazy and worse disingenuous. The article he quoted even mentioned, “BART headquarters in Oakland.”!!! Come on, man.

    Same for the closing line about which side the “majority of San Francisco” citizens will choose. In fact, the majority of SF residents take MUNI to work. BART mainly serves people from other counties getting to SF for work. This is a regional issue, and framing it in terms of just SF is just lazy.

    • Ron Potatoo

      The cost of living is lower in Oakland…

      • Phil Schippmann

        I wasn’t discussing cost of living, so I’m sure what you are trying to refer to. For what it is worth, I live in Oakland and work in SF. The cost of buying a home and rent are cheaper in Oakland, but other costs are the same (food, gas, wages, etc). And if you commute to work in SF then you pay more on BART than SF residents pay on MUNI.

        But my point is that I have trouble trusting the conclusions of an author who doesn’t know the basic parties in the dispute.

        Also, the statistic on the site’s homepage is wrong. 400,000 bay area residents were inconvenienced today, not 40,000 San Franciscans as the site says. Seems this blog specializes in getting basic facts wrong.

  • bpuharic

    Last year, the 25 richest hedgefund managers made more than all 85,000 NY city school teachers, while adding

    nothing

    to our GDP

    Yet everyone goes postal about unions. We just went through the deepest recession in 80 years caused by Wall Street greed (according to Alan Greenspan).

    Reaction from the elite? Silence. Unions played NO part in that

    But it’s open season on unions. Wall Street never gets talked about except in hushed tones that one uses before the Tabernacle, appropriate when discussing a Master of the Universe…the folks that Greg Mankiw says are genetically superior to the middle class…

    The wealthiest 1% took ALL…repeat ALL of the productivity gains in the last 2 years while the middle class LOST ground…

    But it’s the unions, you see…

    • rheddles

      It is the unions. No body forces me to patronize a hedge fund or its manager. Everybody who gives them the money you so resent does so voluntarily.

      But unions are just gangs of thugs who use their monopoly to extort money from people under threat of violence. Big difference.

      • bpuharic

        Given the fact there are a limited number of TBTF banks, it’s a myth we give anything ‘voluntarily’. They’ve constructed our financial sector to their own benefit so that, as Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz pointed out, we’ve privatized reward and socialized risk. The TARP bailout alone falsifies your statement.

        Unions represent working people. Given the elites’ view of working people in America, your view is its own refutation.

        • rheddles

          “Unions represent working people.”

          There’s a knee slapper.

          • bpuharic

            And the 1% are genetically superior, as Mankiw says…

            another howler.

          • rheddles

            And a non-sequitor.

        • bannedforselfcensorship

          Are hedge funds the same as the TBTF banks?

          No, they are not.

          Work on your argument.

          How about just having hedge fund managers pay normal income tax rates?

    • Jim__L

      Stick to “break up the banks” and other concrete policy arguments, bp. “1%er” rhetoric won’t get you anywhere here.

      • bpuharic

        Another example of epistemic closure on the part of the apologist for far right oligarchs.

  • Bryan

    $83,000, even in the Bay Area, is a decent salary for this kind of work. And they were being offered an increase to $90,000 and that doesn’t even count their benefits.

    I’m sorry, but expecting a 23% increase is insane.

    • bpuharic

      Ironic in that, if our income profile was the same 1975-2005 as it was 1950-1975, median household income today would not be $50,000, but $92,000

      http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/300-196/18211-the-republicans-of-the-supreme-court

      and we would not be having this conversation. America has, instead, decide to enrich the already wealthy, while debating how many crumbs the middle class should be allowed to scoop off the floor.

      • Bryan

        That sort of rate increase isn’t sustainable. And if that happened across the board, prices of goods and services, housing and so on would have increased along with it, making such gains not nearly as impactful as you might think.

        But the point is, $90,000, even in the Bay Area, is not “crumbs” by any stretch of the imagination. Especially when you consider the very generous benefits package that comes with it. All for a job that requires little in the way of unique, hard to find skill sets.

        • bpuharic

          Well it IS sustainable. Over the course of 30 years, the 1% have tripled their income. So that level of income growth IS sustainable for SOME of the population…just not the middle class.

          • Bryan

            And even if your point is conceded, it does nothing to rebut that $90k for this job is plenty reasonable, especially when you add in the benefits package they get.

    • Jim__L

      $83k is a fantastic salary for that kind of work. $90k+ is the kind of salary you make in engineering, when your contribution to humanity’s overall well-being is quite a bit greater…. and your hours are likely significantly longer.

      Yeah, I don’t think BART workers are going to get much sympathy, even if their rents are outrageous. At a certain point the solution is to move out of SF and leave the price-gouging landlords to go bankrupt.

  • dawadu

    Question– which side the majority of San Francisco citizens will chose to support?
    Answer–The Democrat side

  • http://www.federaleagent86.blogspot.com/ Federale

    BART is not legally connected to any city government. It has its own independent board and bureaucracy.

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