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End This BART Dispute Now

by: California Labor Federation

Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 10:45:58 AM PDT

A sixty-day cooling off period would simply reward BART management for its bad behavior and regular absenteeism at the bargaining table

by John Logan, San Francisco State University

How did the BART dispute ever reach this point?

For several weeks now, BART management has mounted a sophisticated PR campaign, stating that its workers are overpaid and unreasonable. But its evidence on employee pay and benefits has been misleading at best; its estimates of average pay include many highly paid managers, thus exaggerating significantly the pay of frontline employees. Likewise, management's statements on employee contributions to health benefits have failed to account for the significant out-of-pocket expenses incurred by many BART employees.

Denigrating your workers in the media may be a winning strategy in the battle for public opinion, but it's a foolhardy one for senior management running an organization whose success depends so heavily on employee commitment and flexibility.

This week's public hearing in Oakland before Governor Brown's three-member investigative panel provided an entirely different version of events from BART's media campaign. During several hours of testimony, union witnesses described in great detail BART management's "Comedy of Errors" bargaining style. If their account is accurate -- and BART did not dispute the specific allegations, though it did add a couple of its own -- this behavior provides almost a textbook example of 'surface bargaining,' i.e., going through the motions of negotiating with no intention of reaching an agreement. Without exception, moreover, union officials stated that this year's BART negotiations were not only the worst ever at BART, but the worst they had ever seen in several decades in the labor movement.

Rather than make a legitimate effort to negotiate a settlement, management has repeatedly employed delaying tactics; it started negotiations in mid-May, rather than in April, as the union had requested; it has engaged in the arbitrary scheduling of meetings; its chief negotiator Tom Hock was, incredibly, unavailable for one-third of the 30-day contract extension period after the July strike; and over the last weekend, management took almost 12 hours to respond to unions' pay and benefit proposal. During those critical final hours, management was, unbeknown to the unions, writing to the Governor to request a 60-day cooling off period, rather than attempting to reach a settlement.  

While accusing the unions of excessive contract demands, BART management has made unreasonable and unrealistic bargaining demands of its own: its initial pay and benefits proposal would have meant a 12% cut in real terms for employees who have not had a raise for the past 4 years. At the tail end of bargaining over the weekend, the unions reported that management's last offer was worse than its previous one. Moreover, management has repeatedly negotiated through the media -- even continuing to do so during an agreed-upon gag order -- rather than bargain face-to-face with its unions.

But it doesn't need to be this way. It is instructive to compare the train wreck of contract negotiations at BART with the successful negotiations that just concluded at AC Transit, which involved similar pay and benefits challenges. Despite facing contentious issues, AC Transit management and its union reached an agreement without strikes, contract extensions or cooling-off periods. They sat down together, negotiated in good faith, and got the job done.

Contract negotiations are rarely easy -- especially in an environment of fiscal austerity -- but the AC Transit experience demonstrates that when management and workers are committed to an equitable and sustainable outcome, disparate interests can reach agreement through commonsense compromise. The fundamental obstacle to a similar outcome at BART is that management has neither negotiated in good faith nor shown a genuine desire to avoid a strike. Under the guidance of its chief negotiator Tom Hock -- who is notorious for driving down wages and benefits, as well as driving labor disputes to strikes -- management has steered negotiations almost unstoppably towards the current stalemate.

It's certainly possible that Governor Brown will seek a sixty-day cooling off period come Monday, but it should not have come to this. Settling this dispute will require flexibility and compromise on both sides. In order for that to happen, however, BART management must first end its media campaign, sit down with its unions, and negotiate in good faith.  

California Labor Federation :: End This BART Dispute Now
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OK (0.00 / 0)
You state that BART management mis-states the average BART worker salary.....

So, WHAT is the average salary for full time, non-,amagement BART workers ?

What percent of their retirement do BART workers pay ?

What percent of their health care do BART workers pay ?

I haven't gotten a raise in several years and I guess my salary is going down because I'm paying more for health care
My organization matches the first 1% of the retirement I pay
(that's put into an IRA, not a fixed government account)

Show you figures
HOW can you Justify the original 23% wafe increase demand ?

And it's funny, because I don't see ONE MENTION of 'Safety' in your statement
I thought that was the big issue

To Simplify... (0.00 / 0)
Your argument is that because you haven't gotten a raise, no one else should get one? You should be asking why you have't gotten a raise and what you can do about it rather than dragging others down to your level.

And if you can't figure out why the starting demand was a large increase you don't know much about negotiation. Why did management start out with a decrease?

[ Parent ]
My argument (0.00 / 0)
My argument is that BART workers are rather well rewardeed
           'Princes of Labor'
Typically, they get much better salary and benefits than most tax payers
Yet it is tax payers who will pay for any increases

WHAT is the average salary for full time, non-management BART employees ??

(a Simple question)

[ Parent ]
Here's the answer. (4.00 / 1)
"According to salary data by journalist John Osborn and accumulated by the Bay Area News Group last year, average base salary for both station agents and full time train operators is around $56,000 a year." http://www.motherjones.com/moj...

[ Parent ]
Oh ! (0.00 / 0)
If the average salary is $56,000 that's NOT excessive

How reliable are those figures ?
I'm not familiar with John Osborn

But, if those figures are accurate they certainly aren't excessive
I thought engineers made almost double that amount
Thank you

[ Parent ]
No, It's Not (2.00 / 1)
A living wage in San Francisco is over $60,000 per year. $56K implies that most BART employees aren't even making enough to live on.

Do you make over $60,000/year? If not, why not?

Well, maybe you ought to be represented by a union, then.

[ Parent ]
Sorry (0.00 / 0)
The Sunday SF Chronicle has different figures
vehicle operator   30.58/hr  ....$63,606.40yr
station agent      30.88/hr  ....$63,606.40yr      
transit mechanic   36.02/hr  ....$74,921.60yr

This, plus the fact that BART employees pay nothing for their pensions and only $92.00 per month for health care leads the Chronicle to say that BART workers may be the highest paid transit workers in the nation

Your $56,000 figure may be just a little low
Don't you think ?
Should BART workers start contributing to their retirement and halth care ??

[ Parent ]
A dose of honest analysis please.... (0.00 / 0)
Living wage is a function of the # of workers in the household.  A single person can live okay on an income that a family of four would find difficult.  

Here is MIT's Living Wage page for San Francisco:
SF Living Wage

It shows that the Living Wage for a single person renting an apartment (for $1144/ mo) in SF is $12.43 per hour or $26,692.  The Living Wage income for a family of 3 (2 adults and a child; and with only 1 income) is $50, 186. Your $61,000 requirement is rather remarkable- do you expect us to accept that most BART workers are single mothers with 2 kids?

Of course most workers in SF are not covered by a company sponsored retirement plan.  But BART workers are.  And most workers in SF are not getting employer-sponsored health insurance for their family at $92 per month.  But BART workers are.  Most workers in SF pay to take BART.  But not BART workers (and their spouse and their children).  Most workers in SF get sick days that expire if one is not sick.  But not BART workers who can "sell" unused sick days back and get cash money!  Most workers in SF can contribute to a 401(k) savings plan.  BART workers don't have to as BART contributes on behalf of the employee.  These contributions are conveniently left out of the discussion by many here.

Look, this is a discussion site (according to Brian).  So let's discuss without hiding stuff.  We all want BART workers to work and be paid for their service.  We want them to be safe.  Let's work off of the same set of facts.  Bad numbers and fake facts do not contribute to the discussion or make one's argument compelling....  

Please carry on as I have my flame pants on.....  

[ Parent ]
Credibility (0.00 / 0)
As someone living near San Francisco and who tracks the rental market, I do not find those numbers very credible -- unless one is tracking only rent controlled housing.  Good luck getting that!  Rental prices have been skyrocketing in the Bay Area.

But even saying that, this described a basic, subsistence-level living wage.  No frills, no slack for emergencies. Is that how you want people to live?

[ Parent ]
Frisco you are not being truthful (0.00 / 0)
You state that your company only contributes 1% toward your retirement. They are also paying 7.5% FICA tax (Social Security and medicare). That means they're paying 8.5% toward your retirement. BART employees don't get Social Security.  

[ Parent ]
True (0.00 / 0)
I didn't consider Social Security as retirement
But, it really is retirement
My company matches my contribution to Social Security

Conversely, BART employees make NO retirement contributions
Please see today's SF Chronicle story on BART compensation
BART employees might be considered among the highest paid Iif not the highest paid) in the nation

The other problem is that BART unions help elect their bosses

Union campaign contributions to elected BART board members play a significant role in elections
To say nothing of union cmapaign contributions to state and local elected employees
So BART employees always get a sympathetic ear from the BART board and local officials

[ Parent ]
Total Comp (0.00 / 0)

Check out the BART salaries.  I found that about 2400 of the 3500 employees make over $100,000 per year.  I'm not really interested in the salary part of this.  I want to hear more about the safety issues.  I have heard that those are the most important issue, but everyone is hung up on money.  I would love it if someone can get specific about the safety issues (as in worker safety).

Where? (0.00 / 0)
Where does this statistic come from?

[ Parent ]
Actually, No (5.00 / 1)
I went an looked at that database. According to the Mercury News database you linked to there are 345 employees out of 3430 employees make $100K or more. This includes people like a senior police officer, a police sergeant and a master police officer. And, of course, it includes senior management.

People earning almost a living wage (about $61,000 a year in San Francisco) include train operators, station agents and electricians.

This is hardly excessive. Of course, if they could just live in Nebraska they wouldn't need to be paid so much. But then, it would be rather hard for them to work in the Bay Area.

[ Parent ]
Extra crap... (0.00 / 0)
You have to remember that BART counts a lot of extra crap under "other" as "compensation" even though no reasonable person would consider such things part of their salary.

For example, if you have to travel on business and you pay for your hotel then your company gives you the money back, that's reimbursement, but BART counts it as "other" and adds to an employee's total compensation.

If you get two weeks of vacation, you assume that's just a benefit. BART takes the value of that two weeks and adds it again, even though that time is technically part of your original salary.

They're doing lots of stuff to artificially inflate their salary figures.

[ Parent ]
Covered at DailyKos (0.00 / 0)
Many comments have been posted on this at DailyKos:


The public needs to know the degree to which they are being played by BART management. When they bring in a $400,000-a-month union buster, obviously they aren't hurting for money. When they pay over $300,000 a year to some of their management, they aren't hurting for money.

A living wage in San Francisco is $28/hour. That's over $60,000 per year. Which BART employee makes over $60,000 per year?

That's right. It's BART management.

These ones (0.00 / 0)
The Sunday SF Chronicle has different figures
vehicle operator   30.58/hr  ....$63,606.40yr
station agent      30.58/hr  ....$63,606.40yr      
transit mechanic   36.02/hr  ....$74,921.60yr

This, plus the fact that BART employees pay nothing for their pensions and only $92.00 per month for health care leads the Chronicle to say that BART workers may be the highest paid transit workers in the nation  

[ Parent ]
Statistics (0.00 / 0)
Media often misuses/misrepresents statistics.  Everywhere, we've seen the "average" values presented, when we probably should be looking at "median" values.  The median is one where half the sample is above, and half the sample is below -- the average does not necessarily have to be that case.

I took a look at the raw data; a good example of this is in the overtime payments.  The average overtime payment to a BART employee is $9248/year.  But the median payment is only $2870.  This indicates that most BART employees are not getting a significant amount of overtime, whereas a few have received large sums.  Looking at the raw data, 100 BART employees out of over 3000 received more than $50,000 in overtime pay.  That skews the average significantly.  

When I read/hear average data, I expect that to be significantly inflated as a result.

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