Politicians take different tones on BART strike

It’s always interesting to compare the tones that various politicians take when weighing in on labor issues.

In this case, of course, it’s the still-threatened Bay Area Rapid Transit strike. California U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein today wrote to BART management and union leaders to urge a resolution to the standoff:

“We write to strongly encourage all parties involved in the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) contract negotiations to use the seven-day ‘cooling off period’ declared by Governor Brown to end the labor dispute.

“The Bay Area relies on a safe, affordable, and reliable public transportation system, and any BART service disruption has significant impacts on our region’s economy and the hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the system. According to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the four-day BART service disruption in July cost the Bay Area at least $73 million in lost productivity.

“We urge you to resume negotiations in good faith, end the dispute, and work together to avoid any further disruptions to BART service.”

That seems pretty even-handed. But yesterday, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, D-Oakland; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; and Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, issued a statement after the inquiry board appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to review the dispute held a public hearing in Oakland:

“We’re pleased today’s meeting redirected focus on the ultimate goal of finalizing a fair contract that continues to ensure a safe, dependable public transit system. The panel asked important questions, obtaining documents and testimony that revealed the true financial picture of BART, the actual wages workers earn, and the significant safety issues confronted by employees every day.

“Testimony revealed inconsistencies in information BART management made public. For example, the figure given for average BART worker pay has been $79,500. But that figure includes management pay. BART’s own documents given to the panel show train operators earn less than $63,000 and station agents earn $64,000 on average. In addition, we learned that workers have offered to significantly increase contributions to pensions and employee medical.

“These are the type of facts that need to be the focus at the bargaining table. We believe that BART riders deserve good faith negotiations to resume so that rail service can continue uninterrupted.”

No question where they stand, huh?

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR Senile Columnist

    Translation of three comrades’ statement: We believe there are more votes from union members than managers. And, a lot more cash.

  • JohnW

    BART claims that the two sides are $100 million apart in their proposals. The unions say the gap is half that amount.

    If you go by BART’s claim, the gap is about $50,000 per employee, or about $16,000 per employee per year in a three-year contract. Even if you go by the union numbers, it’s $8,000 per employee per year. That’s quite a gap considering that the total pay and benefits are already out of line.

    Or look at it in terms of how it could affect BART fares. Figure 150 million BART trips per year. The annual cost to cover the gap claimed by BART would be $33 million. If that was all paid for with fare increases, the average fare per trip would need to increase 22 cents, in addition to fare increases already planned. BART’s fares are already high compared with other cities such as the NYC transit system.

  • Elwood

    @ 2

    And how do you suppose they’ll pay for the new cars, control system and maintenance yard they need?

    Money that should have been set aside for these things for years has gone to the obscene salaries and benefits enjoyed by BART “workers”.

  • JohnW


    I don’t blame the BART employees or the unions, anymore than I blame the mountain lion for eating Bambi. BART’s beginning point in the contract talks (8% wage increase, 10% contribution on health care premiums and 3% contribution on pensions) amounted to giving away the store before they even started. They should have demanded 40-hour weeks, elimination of the bogus overtime, capping employer contributions on health care and fixing pensions.