Sigh, a BART Strike Is Here…Helpful Hints Later, for Now…

Well it looks like we’re going to have a BART strike to ruin our summer…I have to say neither labor or management have behaved like adults – instead resorting to a lot of macho chest-beating rhetoric, and not finding a way to work through state-imposed cuts, and a health care system that’s an expensive pain in the ass.
I’d been gathering notes for a post that I hoped I’d never have to write – it kept sounding like they’d hug it out – but since we’re in apocalypse mode now I’ll post something later.
For now, I’d just like to say F*CK YOU to both BART management and labor for finding a new way to make bad times worse. Seriously, both sides really do suck right now.

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17 Responses to Sigh, a BART Strike Is Here…Helpful Hints Later, for Now…

  1. @makfan says:

    I bet they will plan the strike just in time for the Bay Bridge closure, no?
    I’m not looking forward to paying approximately $70 extra for each flight I have to take until they come to their senses.
    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the workers. They do not make poverty level wages, and I know so many people who have had salary cuts, hour cuts or outright job losses.

  2. @makfan says:

    In case it wasn’t clear, the $70 is the difference between taxi fare and BART fare for one person.

  3. david vartanoff says:

    Time for CA to enact a “Taylor Law” (NYS statute banning public employee stikes) and mandate binding arbitration in cases such as this. The station agents in particular are way overpaid, the train attendants merely at the high end of the scale for similar jobs. In sum, no sympathy.

  4. natalie says:

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for bart drivers, especially given they are bitching about what I believe is around a 7% salary decrease. Quite frankly, that’s a lot less than many people are experiencing and they should be happy to have a job right now. I realize management isn’t 100% innocent in this situation but the fact that drivers are willing to inconvenience people AGAIN with a strike is bullsh**. I would be fully behind a public employee anti-strike measure.

  5. anonymouse says:

    I think in this case both management and labor are pretty bad: management has some serious issues with its spending priorities, and the unions need to realize that despite being a government, BART is not a bottomless pool of money, especially now with the loss of fare revenue and cuts in state operating assistance. Both sides have a serious case of bad attitude. I mean seriously: they’re sniping at each other with google text ads pointing to propaganda websites. It’s not what I’d call negotiating in good faith.
    Relatedly, how come even in Paris, when they have a Metro strike, they can at least run a skeleton service, but BART shuts down completely? Is nobody in management qualified as a train operator, dispatcher, or station agent? The overnight hourly service timetable requires only 6 trains to run, and has only 14 stations open. Or maybe they just won’t bother, because anyone who matters will just drive instead, and if you don’t have a car (and can’t take AC Transit or whatever instead), you just don’t count.

  6. Alexandra says:

    You’re right BART does suck right now. Those words couldn’t truer even with their own little failures in past weeks. Somehow this seems painfully similar to another transportation agency but it just doesn’t come to mind right now. Anyways I sent them an angry email about how they have screwed me and many many other people. In a time where people simply can’t afford to miss work (literally) they decide to make getting there even more difficult. So if anyone from BART in the high ups depts is reading please take note and get your act together and don’t become muni because that is an entirely different story altogether.

  7. Alex says:

    I tend to have a lot of sympathy for BART employees. As a (too) frequent MUNI rider, it often feels like most of the MUNI employees are about as incompetent and half-awake as could possibly be. Stepping on BART where station agents respond to problems, and TOs actually announce stops, assist passengers, and call the police as necessary… I dunno, I’m more sympathetic. Let’s not forget how quick BART management was to shoot down the idea of delaying pension eligibility for management…
    That said, this post on really got to me:
    “I’m not in ATU and voted in favor of the contract because I have other options, i.e. if the economy picks up I can go work somewhere else. Many people I’ve talked to in SEIU and AFSCME voted “yes” because they don’t plan to stick around four years unless the economy *totally* tanks and gets worse than now. So, in some ways, it’s “win win” for us–if things stay bad on the outside we still have a job, if things get better on the outside we can leave BART and go somewhere with real raises and bonuses.
    For the most part, however, ATU members don’t have that option since their jobs are not really transferable outside of BART. An electrician, network engineer, etc. can work anywhere–a Station Agent probably can’t.”
    In essence. The much vaunted BART employees who ratified their respective contracts probably did so because they’re ready to leave you all hanging. In fact, if I’ve gleaned anything from it’s that the ATU wants a shorter contract, and BART wants to lock in worst case stuff for four years (if I’ve inferred correctly this was a sticking point for all of the contracts).
    @David I would be very hesitant to desire a no-strike clause. Consider where it’s gotten MUNI: drivers get an allowance of AWOL days and riders suffer the unreliable service.

  8. anonymouse says:

    Also, much as I don’t like dragging national politics into it, I think our government-subsidized system of employer-provided health care is a big part of the problem here, and in many other labor disputes as well. It’s not for me to say here what the solution should be, whether we should have health insurance be an entirely private matter, an entirely public one, or somewhere in between, but I think it’s pretty clear that there are major problems when it’s done primarily through the employer.

  9. theletterkae says:

    I don’t envy you at all. This may be the only perk towards LA being a non-friendly public transportation city.
    (Although it does stink when the Metro goes on strike.)

  10. david vartanoff says:

    first, @ Alex the Muni no strike was a deal. I’m talking a punitive statute
    second, if you believe the bart rage quote, I think the analysis goes like this–the others took what was offered precisely because they perceive themselves as expendable–the train attendants and station agents have prima donna fantasies.

  11. Alex says:

    Ouch. Prima donna fantasies? How do you run a transit agency, especially BART, without station agents and train operators?
    By and large the Chron (and most other media outlets save for KTVU) have been filtering their reports through Linton Johnson. I imagine that there’s middle ground out there, but Linton sure as hell isn’t the place to go asking. Linton, in today’s press conference suggested that riders confront station agents and train operators[1]. That’s not middle ground, that’s dangerously close to inciting violence.
    If the sticking point is, as the Chron is claiming, the 7% pay cut… ask yourself this: both rank and file and management got themselves a decent 3% cost of living raise recently. Why is the onus entirely on rank and file to reduce their take home pay? Management is responsible for approving all of the overtime that creates these bloated salary figures that Linton is waving about.
    Look, they’re trying to close, what, a $300 million gap? How much is that OAK connector gonna cost?

  12. anonymouse says:

    How do you run a transit agency without station agents? Easily. LA Metro. PATH. I’m sure there are more examples. What about without train operators? Well, the only things the train operators actually have to do is open and close the doors, and make announcements. There already exist systems (Vancouver, for example), that operate with no train operators at all, with the trains autonomously opening and closing their doors. And of course most systems have automated announcements. Will BART actually be able to operate safely and efficiently with no train operators? I have no idea. Will it be able to do so without station agents? I’d say that yes, it probably can, you just need a direct phone line to some central office in every station. That’s what PATH had, and the one time I had issues with a ticket machine at a station, it worked fine.

  13. Greg says:

    @alex: good points, for sure. I have to say I’m very disappointed with BART management, and the loud, blowhard attitude of Linton Johnson, who I have found to be less than truthful at times about what exactly is going on at BART.
    BART management has done a great job turning people against each other, all the while idiots like James Fang waste money on pie-in-the-sky, nonexistent cell phone payment systems (see my other blog for the takedown on that) and of course, never offer to cut their big pay and pensions.
    More to the point, why weren’t the unions AND BART fighting the draconian Governor/Democrat cuts to transit together? Surely that’s a case where both sides would realize that they had something in common. Nope, instead they went with militant bullshit, the union did the same, and no one wins.
    I think it’s also unfortunate that again, our expensive, poorly run health care system is again a parasite on business and government. I mean, why should any business be in the business of providing health “insurance” (which is BS for many reasons)?
    Why even tie going to the doctor with what kind of job you have? It’s a relic from World War II, and it’s time for a change. I’ll let the screamers and deathers, and crazies go on and on, but let’s face it, at this point we have Soviet-style bureaucracy tied to a capitalist industry that exists to give executives big pay in health care. The worst of both systems. F em all and let’s hit the reset button.

  14. Alex says:

    @mouse: a.) I said BART and b.) Yikes.
    Consider that the reason that the MUNI ATCS sucks so hard is that it was designed for driverless systems. Driverless systems are run at much slower speeds, with shorter (generally one car) trains, with much bigger headways, and much longer dwell times. You need people to run on the kind of schedule that BART and MUNI stick to. Additionally, many (if not all) driverless systems have platform doors to ensure safety and such… something BART doesn’t have.
    And, in fact, the train operators (on both BART and MUNI) do more than announce stops and open/close the doors. They run the trains when the train control stuff acts up, they get out and adjust the track switches when they stick. They preside over any sort of emergency (fire, wreck, etc). On MUNI train operators are tasked with all sorts of triage for the ghetto trains (often times the maintenance techs are sleeping in their trucks and prefer not to be disturbed). On BART, it’s similar, but they’ve got a more well coordinated system with their maintenance techs.
    As for the station agents… I’d say that PATH certainly seems to have station agents.
    Given the volume of passengers (and tourists) on BART, I’m gonna go with: station agents are good. Waiting to buy a ticket if you’re an unprepared tourist is one thing. Waiting to find someone to fix the turnstiles if you’re in a hurry is another. Even Docklands Light Rail (a relatively lightly used “driverless” system) has employees onboard the trains and at the stations.
    Humans and the automation equipment tend to fail in complimentary ways, thus they make a good pair.

  15. Alex says:

    @Greg: Disappointment is very polite. Inciting violence (or attempting) to ought to be grounds for dismissal.
    As for the health care, BART management approved the contracts which proved so expensive that it became cheaper to run up a huge overtime bill. What does management do? Demonize the rank and file for getting such generous compensation.
    CoCo Times has a publicly accessible database of BART wages. Most of these overpaid folks that are being whined about are making $70k or less in base pay. At least with San Francisco, management doesn’t whine about how expensive overtime is.
    This is, of course, a difficult thing to articulate when you’re being tried in the mainstream media by journalists who are addicted to soundbites.
    As someone who has worked as a sysadmin, I really resent the popular characterization of train operators are people who simply push buttons (and to a smaller extent station agents as people who sit in a booth and do nothing all day). When you’re good at your job, you make it look easy. And, as a sysadmin, nobody thinks you’ve got anything to do until something of theirs breaks. These characterizations that are being made of TOs and SAs are awfully one sided, and folks who think that these jobs are so trivial to do ought to engage a BART employee in a thoughtful manner. Hang out with them for a whole day, see what it’s like. Talk to a TO during their break and see what went wrong in the BART system that day, and so on.

  16. Mad Park says:

    Union greed is NOT a victimless crime.

  17. Alex says:

    I see a number of good compromises here.
    “Another new element in the most recent tentative agreement: a change in the length of time it would take for a new employee to qualify for BART’s medical retirement benefits through CalPERS. This change, advanced by the ATU, would mean that new employees would have to wait 15 years instead of five years to qualify for those benefits.”
    Note that this provision was shot down by management last time.

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