August 14, 2009

Gripe time: The pay earned by BART workers who want to strike

Maybe I shouldn’t gripe. But I’m annoyed, like some others, especially commuters who depend on BART to get to work and school, about those train operators and station agents who are refusing to ratify a contract and threatening to go on strike Monday morning.

By the way, I don’t depend on BART to get to work or school, so this doesn’t affect me.

But, I’m still mad because I’m normally a pro-worker kinda gal, because I’m a worker, but I hate it when workers and their unions give themselves and other workers and unions a bad name.

Anway, station agents earn anywhere from $71,031 to $115,053. That’s base bay, plus “other pay.”

I found this information on 311 agents from on a Contra Costa Times database on BART salaries. These agents belong to one of three unions that backed out of a contract settlement on Monday. That union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, also represents train operators who earned anywhere from $81,706 to $136,330, when you factor in overtime and “other pay.” One operator more than doubled his $61,776 base pay by earning $62,432 hours in overtime.

Sure, maybe I shouldn’t begrudge them refusing to accept the four-year pay freeze accepted by the two other unions, because, yes, the economy could get better.

But I do begrudge them. Because I had to take 15 percent pay cut recently, and others at my work place are taking pay cuts of 20 to 30 percent. I also know other people who have been laid off from their jobs.

Sure, maybe BART isn’t the most efficiently run organization, and I’m sure there are lots of ways it could rein in costs. But right now, it really needs to rein in costs. It could lay people off, or it could raise ticket prices, but that would increase the financial burden on riders, a fair share of whom rely on BART to get to those jobs that they still have and who probably earn less than your typical BART station agent.

By the way, with 10 percent unemployment in the state, San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci notes, in her blog, that even in labor-friendly Bay Area, sympathy for potentially striking BART workers is pretty low, at least judging by online comments on the Chronicle's strike story.

"Sympathy for BART workers? Nope--anger is more like it," the blog reads.

As of late Friday afternoon, BART management and union representatives had not scheduled a new negotiating session, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he won’t intervene.

Meanwhile, if you do need to find alternative forms of transportation you can visit the BART web page on updates and options in the event of a strike.


Anonymous said...

Maybe sombody out there knows and could explain to me what a station agent actually does? What are the job requirements? Does it require a college education etc?

I'm not trying to be flip but it seems hard to judge whether this pay is high nor not?

Anonymous said...

mom, bart did raise fares not more than 2 months ago.

the pay figures that bart releases include the money bart pays for members health & retirement. so the figures are inflated--bart employees don't gross those numbers.

I'm taking a 10% cut, management fired 40% of our staff just before christmas. I'm not a big believer that if things are messed up for me, they should be messed up for others kinda' person. Its an ugly up way to live.

Anonymous said...

If you belong to a union you should be put in jail for at least five years, for ruining the American way of life.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5:32, aren't the jails staffed by union members?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant 10:10

MC said...

anon 10:10,

i know i shouldnt feed trolls, but...

the 8-hour work day, child labor laws, the weekend, safety regulations and much more all exist thanks to unions. if your american way of life was something out of a dickens novel, then yes, unions did ruin that.

the labor market is just like anything else, if the price of labor (wages) go down in one sector, they are more likely to do so everywhere else. that's reason enough for every working person to want BART workers to get a good wage.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure how the issue here drifted off to "what do they do anyway" and bashing unions. Being someone who has to deal with pay cuts my self, I dont understand why I should be mad that these guys are fighting having a contract imposed on them? And please understand the "imposed" portion of that statement.

I believe the final issue that led to the breakdown was that the union would accept 2 years rather than 4, and take the loss of the 7% pension contribution.

If bart management cared about the communities they serve then taking the 2 years the union would agree to, and keeping the trains running, then work on a new agreement for 2012 might might be a reasonable approach.

Unions have not ruined the american way of life, thats just a foolish uneducated flame bait comment.

Anonymous said...

I agree, unions have definitely not ruined the American way of life. If anything did, it's corporate greed (at the upper management and executive level). That's what we're trying to dig out from under right now.

However, BART wages ARE too high for the qualifications required for most jobs. But then again, so are many government and quasi-government employee salaries.

The difference is, many local and state employees are taking much tougher concessions than simply agreeing to a two year wage freeze and a couple other odds and ends. They have that, plus several day a month furloughs, etc. I see no reason BART employees couldn't suck it up and AT LEAST agree to that relatively small compromise.

Really creates a lot of public ill-will, and should we ever have an avenue to express that at the ballot box or wherever, I hope we all oblige that opportunity, and remember this and every other BART contract fiasco.

Anonymous said...

Most union and civil service employees endure and lengthy hiring process and work hard to get those jobs.

I can only fathom that people who denigrate those union/civil service employees want those jobs but aren't willing to subject themselves to the hiring process. Instead, they'd rather tear those employees down.

SM should be quoting what someone's base salary is only. Her 'extras' might be overtime or shift differential, which is probably required and not always performed by choice. I always gave up my turn at OT because I didn't need it, and I wanted to be with my family.

These 'extras' might also include stipends for special or unique qualifications such as fluency in a foreign language or sign language. Those employees who demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language and their positions requires or needs a foreign-language interpreter, then they get a stipend. It might be $200/month or so.

SM has given you a small snapshot. Many employees earn a base salary of $50K+. As a former single mom, it would be hard as hell to keep my family together on $50K/year.

The discussion needs to be about living wages. We need people to LIVE and not just EXIST in our society.