For the second time in three months, BART’s union workers, which includes train operators and station agents, went on strike last Friday, leaving the railroad’s reportedly 500,000 daily commuters without transportation.
USF students and staff that commute from other parts of the Bay Area were affected by the railroad shut down after BART management and union leaders were unable to reach a compromise Thursday afternoon.
Christina Goultas, senior exercise and sports science major commutes to USF from San Mateo. She doesn’t take BART herself, but was still affected by the strike. Goultas drives to school, but was late for class because traffic was so backed up on the 280 freeway leading to the Bay Bridge.
“I understand that the BART workers need to voice their opinions,” said Goultas, “but I think they need to be more considerate of all the riders and commuters in the Bay Area who need to adjust their schedule to cope with the strike.”
After BART went on strike in August, Governor Jerry Brown imposed a 60-day “cooling off ” period. After the 60 days ended, negotiations between union workers and BART management continued, but as the workers neglected to operate the train, commuters remain unsure when it will start running again. First year law student Miles Maurino, whose weekend plans were affected by the BART strike notes, “The California Chamber of Commerce reports that the Bay Area loses $70 million in productivity each day the BART is on strike. For the BART employees to claim that their already high salary is not justified is completely unwarranted by the circumstances,” said Maurino.Much of the controversy is over the worker’s wages. The average base salary for full time station agents and train operators is $56,000 a year, in addition to the average $10,000 of overtime for stations agents and $17,000 for train operators, reports Mother Jones.
The average base salary for full time station agents and train operators is $56,000 a year, in addition to the average $10,000 of overtime for stations agents and $17,000 for train operators, reports Mother Jones.
While many look to that salary and wonder why union workers need a higher salary, train operator William Smith says that’s not the only issue. BART management is attempting to change the contract, resulting in more money taken out of their paycheck for pensions and health insurance, according to Smith.
“Our contract states that each year we pay three percent more for medical insurance, but BART wants to up that,” said Smith. Additionally, the contract BART’s management is proposing takes away some union worker’s rights, said Smith: “we want to maintain the current language of our contract.”
The change in contract is likely due to BART’s management hiring a chief negotiator and general manager outside of the Bay Area. “They have no interest to the Bay Area. There are plenty of negotiators within the area that would love to be paid $400,000 to negotiate BART’s contract,” said Smith.
Smith states that it wasn’t his decision to go on the strike, saying that the current management forced it. He adds, “I feel BART is being disingenuous with the riding public. I make no where near what they’ve printed in the papers,” said Smith. “They vilify the workers, yet they hired us.”
Maurino, who doesn’t think contract negotiations justify the negative effects the strike has imposed, finds it crucial for a compromise to be reached and for the trains to start running again because, “BART is the beating heart of the Bay Area,” he concludes.