BART contract still needs work | Tim Talk | Tim Hunt | |

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By Tim Hunt

BART contract still needs work

Uploaded: Oct 24, 2013

The BART strike finally has ended and pundits—including yours truly—are asking who won.

That still will be a matter of debate, but it's no question that the public and the taxpayers lost.

The challenge for the BART board was the shameful—putting it mildly—actions of their elected predecessors who have given away the store over many years. The wage package—the highest of any transit workers in the country coupled with horrible work rules—required them to convince the union to give back concessions it had won over the yearss. Some public employee unions have been reasonable, but the BART unions took the hard line.

Of course, it doesn't help that some in the Bay Area legislative delegation, most of whom owe their seats to strong union support, were chiming in for the unions. That further pressured the board.

The striking unions were clearly striking out with the public—even in the deep blue Bay Area. When people saw how much basically unskilled workers—high school diplomas are the only qualification—made as station agents and train operators—they were livid.

Expecting the nine-member board to have the guts to fire the strikers and replace them as President Reagan did with the air traffic controllers was asking too much.

In the wake of the job actions and given that union-dominated New York City and Chicago prohibit strikes by transit employees; there may be some momentum in that direction.

Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer, who is facing off with mayors Tim Sbranti (Dublin) and Newell Arnerich (Danville) for the 16th Assembly seat next year, has been circulating flyers at BART stations encouraging riders to sign a petition to prohibit strikes by transit workers.

The huge problem is the alternative, often binding arbitration. Arbitrators love to split the baby—in the current labor dispute there was little reasonable option for management. They got some concessions, but had to give way too much on the salary side.

It is absolutely absurd that government workers contribute nothing to their defined benefit pensions—private sector folks check out how much your employer contributes versus what you do. And, for school employees, ask how your 8 percent contribution equates with the 6 percent that BART contributes (employees will work their way up to a 4 percent contribution over four years).

School districts match the employee 8 percent contribution and that statewide system is considered somewhat vulnerable in the long term to meet its commitments.

The BART management gained in the most abusive of the work rules, but there is still along way to go.