Public transportation

BART Employees Strike Again Despite Earning $30,000 More Than Typical San Francisco Worker

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Employees of San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) went on strike again today, after a deadline to resolve contract negotiations passed without a deal. This is the union's second strike in three months.

Daniel Lobo/Flickr

Hundreds of thousands of Bay Area commuters turned instead to free city-provided charter buses, ferries, and their cars. The California Highway Patrol and BART officials reported traffic backed up for miles and insufficient public transit alternatives.

The strike followed an impasse between union leaders and BART management, as they were unable to reach an agreement on workers' salary, benefits, and pension plans.

The New York Times reports:

On Sunday, BART managers presented what they said was their "last, best and final" offer and asked the unions to take it to their membership for a vote. That offer included a 3 percent annual wage increase, a 1 percent annual increase in employee contributions to pensions and an increase of 9.5 percent over the life of the four-year contract in employee contributions to health benefits. On Thursday, BART's general manager, Grace Crunican, said that offer was still on the table.

While the two major unions representing transit workers have accepted some of the proposed terms, they are still not entirely satisfied. Union leaders have expressed concern over some work rules and a desire to get a bigger share of BART's operating surplus.

However, it seems the patience of many Bay Area riders and residents has been wearing thin. Following the first strike, a Survey USA/KPIX-TV poll found that 44% of residents felt that BART management had made a better case in negotiations compared to 19% in support of the union.

To many living in the area, their demands may seem out of touch. According to BART officials, the 2,300 mechanics, custodians, station agents, train operators, and clerical staff earn an average base salary of $71,000 per year plus $11,000 in overtime pay. Additionally, BART employees pay only $92 per month for health coverage and contribute nothing toward their pensions.

Back in August, the San Francisco Chronicle broke down the numbers on BART employees' compensation compared to transit workers in other major U.S. cities. Their analysis found that once you "factor in their low-cost health care and lack of pension contributions…they may well be among the best-off in the country."

Critics responded that the analysis didn't factor in San Francisco's unusually high cost of living. However, the U.S. Census Bureau says the median salary for a San Francisco worker in 2012 was $40,522 – a far cry below (well, roughly $30,000 below) BART employees' take-home pay. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary of a San Francisco worker in 2012 was $66,081 (based on the average hourly wage of $31.77 multiplied by the BLS's figure of 2,080 hours worked per year.)*

BART official Grace Crunican said, "We are not going to agree to something we can't afford. We have to protect the aging system for our workers and the public." 

*Several commenters pointed out the incomparability of the statistics used. 

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  1. Hundreds of thousands of Bay Area commuters turned instead to free city-provided charter buses, ferries, and their cars.

    “Free”?

    1. Free to them, yes.

    2. Free gratis.

        1. Ad fucking hoc. Free fucking gratis.

        2. *crosses fingers in friendship*

    3. I wonder how much it would cost the city if they sold off their buses and trains to the highest bidders and let private owners run things?

  2. these seem like terroristic acts to me.

    1. Possibly treasonous.

      1. Think the Union will be charged with sedition?

        1. If tribute to his O’ness has been sufficient then no…but woe unto him who attempts to short change the god king.

  3. Natural consequence of a labor monopoly.

  4. Always remember, when a public sector union strikes, they’re not striking against their administrative bosses, they’re striking against you. Imagine for a moment if GM went on strike and forced you into some kind of misery until you finally relented and purchased their cars.

    1. Purchasing a GM car is misery enough, thank you.

      1. So is being forced to ride a BART train.

        1. It’s a vacation in Branson compared to MUNI being Pyonyang.

        2. Actually, BART is generally rather pleasant: on-time, fast, usually clean. It’s the MUNI buses that are miserable: slow, dirty, and often scary.

    2. Striking is a declaration that doing the job is not worth what the striker gets for it. He has literally quit.

      My solution is to advertise the strikers’ positions and allow them to compete for their old jobs.

      1. allow them to compete for their old jobs.

        In the Colosseum. No biting!

        1. No biting? We’re not going to get along.

      2. Striking is a declaration that doing the job is not worth what the striker gets for it. He has literally quit.

        I’ve always thought this. It’s just that the employees are specialized or scarce enough that they are betting their absence will either raise the wages needed for that work or that the economic downside of being shutdown will outweigh the increase pay they demand.

        When the employees have a government backed monopoly on those jobs and are also largely unskilled you get situations where a bunch of subway drivers are shutting down a city even though they make 6 figures. It’s totally pear shaped.

        1. Exactly. If they’re worth it, hire them back. If they aren’t, hire someone who actually wants the job. Everybody should be happy, but they won’t really. They’re actually bluffing and are used to getting away with it.

          1. The elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge is that if they put an ad on teevee for operators at $30k a year they’d have to have a lottery because of the massive response.

            That and that new drivers probably don’t need an advanced education and are easily trainable.

            Why can’t we, as libertarians, get people to see the simple fact that a lot of municipal/state/federal employees are low-skilled and massively over paid? How do people not see it minus our bitching? It’s so fucking obvious that the situation gives credence to a mass hypnosis hypothesis.

            1. Government exists to provide jerbs, didn’t you know that?

            2. Why can’t we, as libertarians, get people to see the simple fact that . . .

              It’s uncomfortable stepping out of the limited range of social convention. It requires thinking, and confidence in your own conclusions.

            3. General Butt Naked|10.18.13 @ 6:55PM|#
              “The elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge is that if they put an ad on teevee for operators at $30k a year they’d have to have a lottery because of the massive response.Competition fierce for few openings at BART”

              “Overall, BART gets 20,473 job applications annually for an average of 177 job openings.”
              http://www.sfgate.com/default/…..879855.php
              Market-clearing price isn’t part of the negotiating team’s vocabulary.

            4. Yerp. The true value of labor is not how ‘skilled’ a person is or how much sheepskin they carry. It’s balancing how long the employer can hold onto them against incurring the cost of training their replacement.

              The point of a union is to produce an environment where the employer is not permitted to replace any one for any reason. Unless they want to replace them all at once.

              1. Unfortunately, our wonderful State government passed a law making it illegal to replace striking BART workers. The workers truly have nothing to lose by striking. Without that law, yes, they all would have been thrown out during the first strike.

                The basic BART job requires virtually no education and just a six-week training course. Most of the station agents just sit reading the paper all day, they really don’t have anything to do (all ticket sales are automated). Train drivers basically just push “start” and “stop” buttons. And for this most of these people get salaries and bennies worth over $120,000 per year. You think it’s any wonder why so many people apply for this job?
                (cont)

                1. (cont)
                  The story above doesn’t mention what those actual work rules are that they are striking about in addition to salary and perks increases. They are refusing to get electronic paychecks for one (one striker on TV even said “we’re striking for paper pay stubs!”) Also, they are striking for the ability to call in sick on Monday, work the rest of the week, but then work on Saturday and get paid at 150% overtime rate, because they’ve “already accumulated the hours of a full week.”

                  And finally, they are striking because their employee break rooms are messy. “No one ever cleans them” complained a spokesperson. Good grief. You mess up your own break room, and expect someone else to clean up after you? Just leave your dirty dishes lying around and crumbs on the floor — they need to hire someone for that?

                  BART strikers are the most entitled-sounding employees I’ve ever come across.

                  1. At what point will the progrards in the Bay Area be fed up with their public union allies?

                2. Unfortunately, our wonderful State government passed a law making it illegal to replace striking BART workers.

                  Dear fuck. Is there a word or term to describe that kind of unholy, corrupt, circle-jerk? Other than organized crime or democrat party politics, that is.

      3. Fire the lot of them, yes.

        (Or, be nice, bust the union, and let anyone who shows up to work keep their job.)

  5. Oh, and lest you think that every major cities’ public officials want to get you into public transit because of the earth, or the children, or traffic efficiency, think again.

    Once a large number of the population is dependent on public transit to get from A to B, they’ve now created the single-point-of-failure to which the public sector unions have control of the power plug.

    1. We’ll have none of that pesky independence!

    2. Why depend on “foreign” oil when you can depend on massively overpaid public sector parasites instead?

    3. “Imagine if workers could shut down a manufacturing plant just because they didn’t get what they want” – B. H. Obama

      1. He did say a factory and not a city.

  6. According to BART officials, the 2,300 mechanics, custodians, station agents, train operators, and clerical staff earn an average base salary of $71,000 per year plus $11,000 in overtime pay. Additionally, BART employees pay only $92 per month for health coverage and contribute nothing toward their pensions.

    As someone who took many years of college and busting my ass to get to that pay level, pays far more than that for health insurance, gets no pension and in fact, has to contribute 15% of my income to a 401, let me say:

    FUCK YOU. I hope they fire every one of you low-skill ingrates.

    1. has to contribute 15% of my income to a 401, let me say:

      Or another way of saying it, your contribution to your pension is 100%.

      1. I at least get some from my employer. But I haven’t had a raise in 5 years and keep having to pay more for health insurance. The BART people can get fucked. I’d bet they can fill all of the jobs at $40,000/year with the cushy public pension and other benefits.

    2. FUCK YOU. I hope they fire every one of you low-skill ingrates.

      By striking, haven’t they already quit their jobs? Literally?

    3. $71K? Average? I’ve been working 7 years to not be within spitting distance of that. I’m going on strike!

      1. Brandon. I OWN a business and don’t come near that!

        Or as one piece of shit liberal told me when I wrote this to make a point on a subject on a lefty publication (which was the first and last), if I don’t pay myself better it’s because I’m a bad owner.

        Or maybe, asshole, I take my surplus earnings (the business is only 2 1/2 years old) and put it back into the business to grow it to ensure there’s money in the bank in the long-run?

        I have to also account for pay raises.

        I swear if that guy was in front of me…

  7. This system sounds like a trust that should be busted up by progressives.

    1. Monopolies are good when government creates them. If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost start to think that progressives’ attitude toward monopolies had nothing to do with protecting consumers and everything to do with increased government power as its own reward.

      1. It’s the weirdest thing. The Canadian market is littered with monopolies and welfare-corporate cronyism and if I didn’t know any better, to Canadians this is a healthy “balance” from greedy capitalists.

  8. I was listening to the radio while somebody from a public sector union was complaining about their pension. They representative said “But you must remember that we don’t get social security” as if being forced into social security is a choice that all of the greedy private sector workers get, but the hardworking union member must do without. Please by all means allow them into social security and force them to save like the rest of us.

    1. They make it sound like getting a better deal is a sacrifice.

    2. The rep didn’t happen to mention that they don’t pay Social Security, did he? They tend to leave that part out.

  9. Fuck public employee unions AND government subsidized infrastructure.

    1. I second that emotion…

      H/T Smokey Robinson.

  10. Fire them all. And fire the entire management structure for not firing them all the first time.

    1. Get a load of Reagan over here.

      1. I know, right? Hey Sugarfree, it’s 1984, your ‘smaller government’ GOP wants you back.

        *ducks*

      2. Fire them and sell them to Iran.

        1. Did you get this idea from your astrologer?

          1. The jellybeans whisper to me at night. They whisper such awful things, such wonderful things.

            1. (whisper) Transformers 4 is going to be great…you will love it…and you want everyone to know… (whisper)

            2. At least you don’t put your feet on the desk.

            3. Only in the hottest years this happens- and this year, it grows hot due to jellybean induced warming.

        2. Feed their brains to the dead!

          Brrrrrains! Send more cops!

  11. Going to need a lot of money to get that cow.

  12. In their defense, they do have to deal with BART workers all day.

  13. BART has an operating surplus? And does it make BART solvent if it were a private company and capital costs are included?

    1. No, the people of San Francisco has a surplus, and the Union has become horribly confused as to who it belongs to.

      1. The union believes the same thing about the people.

        🙂

  14. Haven’t they replaced these fools with robots yet?

    1. In Chicago, they replaced the fare clerks in stations with robots, but kept the clerks anyways. They now don’t sell tickets, or even give change (machines are exact change only). The jaggoffs basically don’t do shit except act surly.

      1. The jaggoffs basically don’t do shit except act surly.

        That’s not worth an extra $15k a year?

        1. You Know Who Else got paid for acting surly?

          1. One of the Stooges!

          2. The guy who dresses up as Surly at Duff Gardens?

          3. Everybody at Dick’s Last Resort?

      2. You know what other city regularly uses the term jagoff?

        1. Pittsburgh?

      3. I remember a very unionized department store in the city where I grew up.

        After fully automated elevators were installed, the union forced them to keep the elevator operators on payroll. This continued until all of them either died or retired.

        That store was one of the first department stores to go bankrupt.

        1. The same thing happened on the railroads. Though by the 1970’s the day of the steam engine had long since passed, railroads were still required to have a fireman on every train.

          I don’t believe that reg was killed until the RR deregulation of ’80.

        2. See. I don’t get that. Why didn’t the dept. store just say “fuck off?”

          1. See National Labor Relations Act.

  15. At least use a picture of a BART train…

    1. Who the fuck cares? They could have used a picture of the Tom Thumb and the point would be the same.

      1. No it wouldn’t. I can hardly get past the misuse of art on the story. How do I know anything in the post is accurate when it’s a picture of a LARP train, instead of a BART train?

  16. Is this what David Cameron is backing?

  17. “Don’t have a cow, man”

    Bart Simpson

  18. I hope they all starve to death.

    But they won’t.

    Sadly, they won’t.

  19. Y’know who else made a big deal about being able to run the trains on time?

    1. Dagny Taggert?

    2. The dude with the chin?

    3. Mussolini?

  20. One thing that’s interesting: while the comments on SFGate.com usually run a bit to the right of the Bay area average, the BART strikers are getting pummeled by at least 20 to 1, based on number of comments and likes.

    Apparently one of the work rules in contention is the current practice of taking a sick day, then working a different day that same week and getting overtime for it.

    1. Other issues relate to using email for reports, and getting paper pay checks.
      Stinks to high heaven; pretty sure those are red herrings hiding the OT and other ‘my union says I can sit on my ass’ issues.

    2. the BART strikers are getting pummeled by at least 20 to 1

      It was the same story when I lived in SF 20 years ago… everyone knew how horrible and corrupt MUNI was (is) – but nobody gave enough of a shit to do something about it.

      1. “but nobody gave enough of a shit to do something about it.”

        There isn’t a single politico with his or her head above the edge of the foxhole on the matter; prolly a lot of wet fingers in the air.
        The unions do run SF and CA through the Dem puppets, so unless the population decides to actually *vote* against union benes, I’m guessing we’ll get the same result.

    3. I’ve noticed that sites and publications outside the liberal ranks (ie Huff, Kos, Beast, NYT) have more comments critical of Obama and stories like this than we think.

      I mean like anything be it a sports publication, tech, Yahoo – any other forum not in the progressive ranks. Even WaPo has its share of people voicing displeasure. Believe it or not, even up here in Canada places like the CBC get such commentary – of course, to the lefties they’re ‘extremists.’

  21. In other Bay area news, SFGate.com just switched their comment system from their old home-grown system to Viafoura, which is so terrible that it’s uniting commenters like nothing since a baby rape story. (As one commenter said, when your new commenting system is as popular as a baby rapist, it’s a sign you’re doing something wrong.)

    For some reason Viafoura’s tagline (“Social is great. Monetization is better.”) doesn’t seem to be getting a positive response, either.

  22. Fire them, and hire replacements at $30K less.

    -jcr

    1. I believe the median income in North America is in the 45-48k range if I’m not mistaken.

      Now, in order to be above that pay grade, one would think the worker is producing a value added service or commodity to the economy. Be it a doctor, engineer, salesmen (who work on commission) that sort of thing.

      How in the world can a public worker – who produces NOTHING and doesn’t CREATE WEALTH – get above that?

      And then they wonder why we’re indebted?

  23. lol, so why am I not surprised?

    http://www.Got-Privacy.com

  24. Thugs performing thuggish acts. Who knew?

  25. Meadian != Mean (average). You might want to use comparable stats.

  26. Welfare cases fighting for more welfare. What else is new?

  27. reading this I can only think of things like God Bless Texas because unions ain’t welcome

  28. Hey, Jess Remington, you need to do a little research on what economic statistics mean. Your claim that “However, the U.S. Census Bureau says the median salary for a San Francisco worker in 2012 was $40,522 ? a far cry below (well, roughly $30,000 below) BART employees’ take-home pay” is a laughable misinterpretation of the data. $40522 is not the median salary for a worker, it is the per capita income, which includes every person in the region, including those who don’t work like newborn babies, school children, disabled veterans, panhandlers, destitute retirees, people in comas, etc. Your argument that the transit workers are overpaid because they make more than someone who has been in a coma for 25 years is beyond a joke. You need to go to school, sonny.

    The funny part about it is that some idiot named Sean Higgins who fancies himself some kind of analyst actually plagiarized your embarrassing error and published it under his own name on the Washington Examiner website!!! You have not only embarrassed yourself but you have helped Higgins make an abject fool of himself too!

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