The Penurious Life of a BART Employee

We haven’t had a good union rant around here in a while, a prime candidate just surfaced. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) employees decided to go on strike, stranding over 400,000 local commuters in the process, because they feel they are being treated unfairly. Contract negotiations came to a screeching halt on Monday because in a land where stagnant wages and high unemployment has caused consumer sentiment to wane and our economy to sputter, BART employees are not happy with an 8% raise. These slave wages, they will not abide.

BART said that train operators and station agents in the unions average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers also pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.

Rice said BART’s latest proposal offered a total of an 8 percent salary raise over the next four years, instead of its original offer of a total of 4 percent over the same period. The proposed salary increase is on top of a 1 percent raise employees were scheduled to receive Monday, Rice added.

How to they expect anyone to live on 82 grand? Clearly, dog food wages.

So what do the employees want?

The unions are asking for raises that add up to about 23.2 percent over three years.

Oh, and they don’t want to have to contribute to their pension or have their health care premiums raised.

Currently BART employees pay nothing into their pension fund,zero, zip, nada, squaduche. Private sector employees use pre tax money to fund their 401K’s, they fund their own retirement plan, a Defined Contribution Plan, which depending on how that money is invested, the returns produced and the amounts put in, could amount to a sum sufficient for a comfortable retirement. Public sector employees, OTOH, can participate in Defined Benefit Plans, a pension whereby a percentage of the employee’s salary is guaranteed for life, a pretty sweet deal. Most employers require the worker to pay in to the pension plan himself, to fund a percentage of it. But BART employees pay nothing into their plan.

Factor in the small premium they pay for health care (any of you pay as little as 92 bucks for health insurance for your family?). Oh, and they only work 37 1/2 hours a week, anything over that is over time.

So where do we place the blame? human nature being what it is, when you over feed someone on a regular basis, a point is reached whereby the diet is considered normal, then expected, then insufficient. If management is willing to give us A, obviously they think A is a good deal for them, wait a minute, what are they trying to pull? They must be holding back somewhere and we deserve our fair share, so lets ask for the sky, who knows?

The fault does not lie solely with the unions. It is their job to ask for the ridiculous, it is management’s job to bring them back down to earth with their demands. But history has proven that management (and municipalities that barter tax money as leverage) have not been good negotiators and given up the farm much too easily. A skewed sense of “fairness” results, which poisons the well for the next set of negotiations.

Most states does not allow public sector employees to strike, for obvious reasons. But if Reagan could fire the air traffic controllers as a safety issue for air travelers, the governor should at least threaten similar action as a safety issue for the BA commuters that just had their world turned upside down. Fire the lot of them, those cry babies. I know a few hundred high schoolers that would love the summer jobs, and would do it for half that salary.

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  1. bgeek

    Fire the lot of them, those cry babies. I know a few hundred high schoolers that would love the summer jobs, and would do it for half that salary.

    Or better yet, hire transit workers from Japan. They’ll get shit done for less.

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  2. AlexInCT

    Rice said BART’s latest proposal offered a total of an 8 percent salary raise over the next four years, instead of its original offer of a total of 4 percent over the same period.

    I am probably one of the few people in the private sector to see a 4% raise in the last few years, but it is because I work my a$$ off and my skills are in high demand, so my employer knows they better give me the raise or I will look elsewhere. Most people in the private sector have seen no raises at all for a while. I have heard from a buddy that has not seen one in 4 years, and hsi point was that he was about to take a major hit to his income, because his health insurance premiums just doubled (no sympathy from me, because he was a big lover of Obamacare until this came up).. Some people have had a miniscule one 1-2%, raise, while even more have had to contend with pay cuts (in lieu of lay offs). A lot of people in the private sector have lost their jobs too.

    And here are these BART unionized/government employees demanding insane raises to offset the fact that they will now actually have to pay a measly 8% into their retirement funds for a change. something everyone else everywhere, but especially in the private sector, have to do already. For a freaking job we could have high school kids do better at, of all things. Galling is an understatement. Look, I do not begrudge anyone the ability to earn as much as possible, but don’t expect sympathy from people that are feeling the pain when what you are asking for is not even close to the norm. Especially when tax payers that are already getting hammered by the idiotic big government regulation and rules are suffering greatly, but will be left to foot the bill for your perks.

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  3. Seattle Outcast

    While I have received a few pay increases that exceed what these ass-clowns are striking for, I have, in every instance, done something exceptional that deserved it. Most of the time you get a puny 2% – 5% raise annually – those add up significantly over the long haul, and even those are “merit raises”.

    You are expected to actually excel in your work to receive higher pay, which is where I have a fundamental issue with unions. Just showing up and doing the minimum to not get fired doesn’t deserve higher pay, hell, I’d fire you anyway and replace you with a more qualified person who I’d end up paying more. But that person would be worth it as they produce more work.

    Personally, I’d fire all of them, bust the union, and find replacements starting for half the current pay. Everybody wins: Taxpayers get a break, union idiots learn a lesson about life, and people with an actual work ethic get jobs. When bus drivers make six figure incomes while people with actual marketable skills make less than half that, you have pretty much defined the entire problem with unions.

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  4. Technomad

    Looking at those salaries, I regret going to college—I should have joined BART.

    Seriously, though, with wages like that, it’s no wonder that the SF Bay area is horribly overpriced.

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  5. Seattle Outcast

    The Union case

    Ultimate fail right off the bat: “the money is there” that’s what people say when they rob banks, not negotiate for wages. First of all, employees are not partaking of the profits – stockholders who INVESTED MONEY get that. Employees work for a wage/salary. Also, California is in dire financial straits – saying “the money is there” is literally saying “we can tax these fuckers EVEN MORE.”

    Failure to understand even that basic fact pretty much means you fail to understand everything.

    Now, go back to discussing politics inside your own country, you obviously don’t understand them in this one.

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  6. richtaylor365 *

    The Union case.

    They don’t make much of a case at all. Let’s tick them off;

    1) Of course it is a last result, so what? Nobody goes on strike as a first resort, DUH!!. Make outrageous demands, knowing that there is no way in hell they can meet those demands, then declare at impasse, then go on strike. You think this makes the unions look good?

    2) SO took care of this one. They are salaried employees, and should feel lucky that BART has the money to keep them employed. They have no right to profit sharing.

    3) Yes, they are very greedy. We all know what they make for their 37 1/2 hour work week.

    The average BART worker — including management and non-union employees — made $83,157 in gross pay in 2012, up from $80,588 in 2010, according to an analysis of payroll records by this newspaper. An 8 percent wage bump, on top of a 1 percent pay increase already set to kick in Monday, would push the average BART employee’s gross pay to about $90,600 in 2016.

    To think that they could lie their way out of this is funny.

    4) Every employee everywhere in the world would like “safer” working conditions, it is incumbent upon the union to prove that the existing conditions are not safe.

    5) So other greedy union cry babies are striking somewhere else, this somehow lends legitimacy to this strike?

    6) How are they “wrongfully complaining”? What took them 40 minutes by BART now takes them 2 hours, freeways, bridges, all a mess, gridlock everywhere, yet this is wrongfully complaining. Many Bay Area commuters rely on BART to get them to work, now they have to make other arrangements, some costlier and more time consuming (clearly you don’t know about the parking problems in SF), but they are just whining, got it.

    7) this was the funniest one of them all, to think that some companies think outside the box and try to make their employee’s commute less onerous and time consuming, yet, somehow this is nefarious. Face it, the union sympathizers (and I guess you by proxy) should be ashamed of themselves, their greed and their duplicity in masquerading this work stoppage as somehow noble or deserved.

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  7. pekka

    7) is really hilariously dumb. But I guess they only added it for the dramatic effect of “fly over society’s problems.”

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  8. Miguelito

    More gems from the alternet (bwah ha ha) article…

    This proposal would also be contingent on “factors including ambitious ridership increases, sales tax revenues, and reductions in the number of employees taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.”

    Oh noes! They actually want people’s pay for operating a system to possibly reflect the ability of said system to support itself? Say it ain’t so.

    Imagine if every four years you had to negotiate your salary, health and retirement benefits, hours and working conditions

    Most people (in the private sector anyway) have to prove they deserve a raise every year and can’t sit on their ass getting automatic increases because of some bullshit union contract. You chose to unionize, live with it’s downsides too.

    Having been a teamster at my first job as a teen I did learn one huge life lesson: Never again!

    Meanwhile, BART general managers make an average $399,000 a year.

    They think most taxpayers don’t want to fix that?

    Meanwhile assaults on station agents went from nine percent to 31 percent last year. These attacks include rape and homicide.

    Go have a chat with your golden boy Jerry that you jackasses backed for governor. He wants to release even more prisoners as a solution to prison overcrowding.

    But instead of focusing on why there’s a BART strike and what’s at stake for the workers, some people on Twitter took to complaining about their extra long commute. Even worse, the media too focused heavily on the lengthy commute today and providing alternative routes instead of on the important stuff. … Typical.

    “How dare you, and especially the normally compliant media, not kow tow to us and instead look at the impact our strike had. Damn you!”

    But when people become over-concerned about an inconvenience, they forget that these brave BART workers are, in essence, fighting for all workers.

    Ah yes, that same old, tired union gem.

    But perhaps even more insensitive than Bay Area residents and media outlets are the techies in Silicon Valley, who are exploring ways to profit off of the BART strike.

    “How dare they take advantage of our attempt to win people over to our cause!”

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  9. Mississippi Yankee

    But if Reagan could fire the air traffic controllers as a safety issue for air travelers, the governor should at least threaten similar action as a safety issue for the BA commuters that just had their world turned upside down.

    rich, you’re not seriously comparing Reagan to Gov. Moonbeam are you?

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  10. Miguelito

    rich, you’re not seriously comparing Reagan to Gov. Moonbeam are you?

    Yeah, same guy that just helped give a raise from the “It’s for the children/schools!” tax increases to many other SEIU assholes across the state. They actually stood up and demanded their share for helping get it to pass. They got it too, of course.. D’s rule this state. Which is why we’re broke.

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  11. richtaylor365 *

    D’s rule this state. Which is why we’re broke.

    I am always amazed at the power of group think. The sheeple buy stories like this, when reality points to facts like this. And the voters pat themselves on the back for their shrewd insight in picking their political leaders.

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  12. Miguelito

    The sheeple buy stories like this, when reality points to facts like this

    That supposed “balanced” budget is based mostly on accounting tricks and is unrealistic anyway. Watch, we’ll “Unexpectedly” fall short again.

    Here in San Diego, we’ve got fucking Bob Filner for a mayor now too (SD used to be a lot more red). He’s a nutjob that keeps throwing fits and is in a feud with the city attorney’s office now.

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  13. CM

    The Union case

    Ultimate fail right off the bat: “the money is there” that’s what people say when they rob banks, not negotiate for wages. First of all, employees are not partaking of the profits – stockholders who INVESTED MONEY get that. Employees work for a wage/salary. Also, California is in dire financial straits – saying “the money is there” is literally saying “we can tax these fuckers EVEN MORE.”

    Failure to understand even that basic fact pretty much means you fail to understand everything.

    Now, go back to discussing politics inside your own country, you obviously don’t understand them in this one.

    Yeah I didn’t write it. I didn’t even defend it. Sorry if either of those were unclear to you.
    (By the way, where exactly does this current round of hostility spring from? Or did you get out of the wrong side of the bed this morning?)

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