I think my family has done a pretty good job of reconfiguring ourselves into the workings and everyday happenings of our foreign surroundings. Many parts of California are quite dissimilar to our Midwest backdrop. I like to think when we moved here to this great state, that we adapted swiftly.
With this recent labor debacle, it never occurred to me that we would be dealing with a strike that would leave an entire city helpless. I'm from Detroit, where automotive unions have a lot of sway in a one-horse town. The UAW is quite famous for its own strikes. Detroiters bicker about the same things the BART workers squabble over: low wages, unfair management practices, untenable overtime, and not enough benefits. But the Detroit strikes just don't compare in scale to how the BART strikes affect an entire region of commuters.
When Detroit unions strike, it doesn't send a ripple effect throughout the community in one fell swoop. Their strikes don't shut down a way of life overnight. Detroit strikes are ominous, sometimes cut-throat, and maybe even perilous - but never does an automotive strike snub the community of taxpayers and say, "Yep, sorry customers. Neither side is budging. Your life as you knew it is going to get a whole lot messier."
Californians don't have too many options when their only form of mass transit to the great city of San Francisco and beyond halts to a dead stop. We count on unions and management to resolve its issues before we get put out to pasture to fend for ourselves. Sorry BART, but the pacification of charter buses just doesn't cut it. We count on unions and negotiators to sift through the mass of issues, complaints, paperwork and bureaucracy and figure it out. But, since we are beholden to this monopoly, we the people are left to pick up the pieces and you guessed it - figure it out.
BART General Manager Grace Crunican recently issued the following statement pertaining to the tentative agreement: "I won't go into details about the tentative agreement. I will simply say it sets BART on a path of partnerships with union members and helps us to prepare for the future." Why aren't we privy to the details?
The strike is now over (well, tentatively), but it should have been averted. Why isn't there a social responsibility employed along with unions and BART management? What our city had to go through while this company sorted out their nitty-gritty is a shame.
For those who had to deal with the paralyzing commute to jobs and other critical destinations, how did they manage? For the people who didn't have their own form of reliable transportation, what did they do? For the people who had to get up hours earlier than usual just because they knew they'd be snarled up in traffic, how did they cope? For those who were just trying to make ends meet, and who had to deal with a headache placed upon them by two sides that just couldn't figure it out, how did they sort through this nightmare?
During this BART battle, we the people were like children caught within a bitter divorce. These divisions left us to grapple with a big mess and it was left up to us pick up the pieces and muster on with our day.
Who knows what transpired behind closed doors between the feuding teams of union negotiators and upper management, but we the people are the ones who suffered. With such a spotty record now, how are we supposed to trust our one and only commute system? How can we become proactive and be ready if and when another strike happens? Do we need to become citizen superheroes, making sure all attempts at mass transit stoppages are thwarted? Who knows how we are going to resolve this headache in the future. One thing I do know for sure is that we the people need to take care of each other.