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.