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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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BART contract still needs work

Uploaded: Oct 24, 2013
The BART strike finally has ended and pundits—including yours truly—are asking who won.

That still will be a matter of debate, but it's no question that the public and the taxpayers lost.

The challenge for the BART board was the shameful—putting it mildly—actions of their elected predecessors who have given away the store over many years. The wage package—the highest of any transit workers in the country coupled with horrible work rules—required them to convince the union to give back concessions it had won over the yearss. Some public employee unions have been reasonable, but the BART unions took the hard line.

Of course, it doesn't help that some in the Bay Area legislative delegation, most of whom owe their seats to strong union support, were chiming in for the unions. That further pressured the board.

The striking unions were clearly striking out with the public—even in the deep blue Bay Area. When people saw how much basically unskilled workers—high school diplomas are the only qualification—made as station agents and train operators—they were livid.

Expecting the nine-member board to have the guts to fire the strikers and replace them as President Reagan did with the air traffic controllers was asking too much.

In the wake of the job actions and given that union-dominated New York City and Chicago prohibit strikes by transit employees; there may be some momentum in that direction.

Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer, who is facing off with mayors Tim Sbranti (Dublin) and Newell Arnerich (Danville) for the 16th Assembly seat next year, has been circulating flyers at BART stations encouraging riders to sign a petition to prohibit strikes by transit workers.

The huge problem is the alternative, often binding arbitration. Arbitrators love to split the baby—in the current labor dispute there was little reasonable option for management. They got some concessions, but had to give way too much on the salary side.

It is absolutely absurd that government workers contribute nothing to their defined benefit pensions—private sector folks check out how much your employer contributes versus what you do. And, for school employees, ask how your 8 percent contribution equates with the 6 percent that BART contributes (employees will work their way up to a 4 percent contribution over four years).

School districts match the employee 8 percent contribution and that statewide system is considered somewhat vulnerable in the long term to meet its commitments.

The BART management gained in the most abusive of the work rules, but there is still along way to go.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Mike Cherry, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Yes, Tim, your outrage is palpable, especially when you wax so eloquently about the two tragic deaths caused by management's scab practices while the strike was taking place.

But you sum it up well: shameful, horrible, absurd! The people were livid! The Board was gutless! And the rules of work -- which rules? who cares? any rules! -- are abusive! Abusive toward whom? Who knows? Who cares? I'm mad as heck and I need Ronald Reagan back in the saddle, dementia and all.

It's shameful, horrible, absurd, abusive I tell you, that public workers in one of the most expensive cities in the US should make more than workers do in Fargo or Selma.

And horror of horrors, all one needs is a high school diploma to belong to the ranks of the overpaid, pampered unions! These people, who have only high school diplomas (or more), should NOT earn more than I do! Because, you see, I say so, even if most of them probably DO know the rules for using hyphens v. commas better than I do (thanks, Winnie).

You see, in my world (but no one else's), all who have earned doctorates -- literature, public policy, anthropology, art history -- should earn more than everyone else, including my plumber! And those who only have a high school diploma should make less than I do; because look what I've achieved with my life versus what they've achieved? After all, what's more valuable to society? Someone operating your train with 20 years experience, or a PW blogger? I'm done! I'm finished!

p.s. I used -- a lot of exclamation marks -- to indicate how really hopping mad I -- am!!! Can you tell?

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

As I mentioned elsewhere, there was an editorial (corporate media, of course) that indicates this was lose, lose, lose. It\'s an accurate assessment.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Mike, if something I read, or ate, or watched on TV made me as angry as you purport to be, I might fire off an email, but then I'd stop reading, or eating, or watching whatever riled me up in the first place.

Posted by Daveg, a resident of Birdland,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Daveg is a registered user.

Mike rears his head once again from the mud he has been residing in. His rants fail to point out the obvious facts that Tim has put down. A high school diploma or GED does not warrant the kind of outrageous wages awarded to BART union members, and yes, education does and should have it's perks. Trying to compare wages in Fargo is a joke. Not all people with advanced degrees in Fargo earn wages compared with what the BART union members have been earning. For example the average pay for lawyers (in which one needs more than a GED) in Fargo is $115,000, while a pharmacist earns on average $112,000 (again, requiring more than a GED). To try to justify the increases given with little return by the unions is simply ridiculous. Mike's poor attempt to bring the tragic death of two people into the discussion adds nothing to the demands by the union and somehow attempts to hide the fact that the majority of our elected Democrat representatives are beholden to the unions and will do all they can to assure the unions continue to support them.

Posted by Tom, a resident of Castlewood,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 8:47 am

The BART strike powerfully illustrates that public employee unions are inappropriate. When a group of dissatisfied (many would say greedy) employees can so profoundly affect the lives of the public, it is time to disallow public unionization. Of course in ultra-liberal California this is not going to happen especially with a super-majority of democrats in Sacramento. At the least lawmakers should require binding arbitration for both sides therefore outlawing strikes.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 10:20 am

Earlier in this blogging era, I wrote a piece about the anger some folks feel over the relative success of public employee unions -- and the Real Problem our economy faces. I think it bears repeating, as this is an excellent example of the phenomenon:

"As the story goes, a BART employee, a middle manager, and a Wall Street CEO are seated at a table, with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO takes 11 cookies, looks at the manager and says, "Watch-out for that union guy -- he wants a piece of your cookie."

There?s truth in humor. Since the 1970s, abundance has migrated from the middle class to the wealthiest among us, on a massive scale. As of 2007, the richest 10% of Americans hold nearly 3/4 of this country?s wealth. That is a banana republic-worthy statistic, and far out-of-sync with American traditions and perceptions. The imbalance is also unsustainable, as vibrant middle class spending and job creation are crucial to an American-style economy.

Individually self-reliant to a fault, middle class families have tried three unsuccessful strategies in ever more desperate attempts to stay even: spouses went to work, then everybody worked the world?s most exhaustingly long hours, and then home equity savings were looted to cover current consumption. Finally, the real estate bubble that funded those second mortgages burst: the middle class is now tapped-out, tired and ticked-off.

Remarkably, however, instead of bargaining for more cookies, or advocating that the wealthiest few acknowledge their good fortune in fairer taxes -- the middle class has turned instead on public employee unions -- groups who have struck better deals and thus stayed closer-to-even. All motion is relative; the sinking middle class blames its nearest neighbors, who seem to be floating slightly higher. The wealthy are, apparently, above the fray. It?s a dismal quarrel over the last cookie.

The political Right has done a masterful job mis-framing the debate, raising the specter of dreaded ?socialism? (not remotely close to reality), ?wealth redistribution? (which has already happened, benefiting the rich), and ?class warfare? ? the only real example of which is the middle class turning on itself.

This is not to castigate the well-to-do for the vast improvement in their economic well-being. Instead, the lesson here is that the middle class must come to grips with its actual degraded circumstances, and direct its collective electoral influence toward the achievement of its self-interests ? revitalization of its job-creating engine and a reformed tax structure. Those real interests have little to do with beggaring public services ? or government employees.

We all have to fight for our cookies, and them that?s got ?em are not on our side."

Posted by Anti-union, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Public unions, not private unions, suck off taxpayers. Reality is, at this time educated middle-income professionals have been unemployed, some more than once, with no-benefit contract jobs in between. And since we have been made public workers employers, there is no sympathy for whining unions who thought 'we haven't had raises in four years'. So??? try no job and see what that's like. The workers are so childish, illogical, and unjustly demanding...just plain greedy.
The fact that Jerry Brown legalized this mess in the 1980s when he was still Governor Moonbeam, it only seems right that HE should step up and put an end to not only strikes, but the UNSUSTAINABLE excesses of public unions, as structured.
He's hiding. CA is in unsustainable messes with state public unions, as are counties, many cities, and one of largest unsustainable is BART. Jerry, why are you hiding from this...your voters are struggling. Step up.

Posted by Mike Cherry, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 26, 2013 at 1:03 am

I must say, Tom, that I'm impressed with how you've needed to step into the mix in order to rescue your most esteemed colleague, Tim, who appears not only to have flunked high school English but appears also to not have much argumentative stuff to offer those who bother trudging through his mud. I guess maybe he avoids any response from readers because he's just too busy doing research for yet another deep-thought piece.

As to your little humorous anecdote, I'd tend to add a few things. In particular, the corporate CEO doesn't simply take eleven cookies, but rather forces his workers to bake the cookies for him, and then, after having extracted every possible drop of surplus labor from their blood, sweat, and tears, offers them one cookie to fight over with his servile managers. And when the workers and servile ones start grousing over the remains of the one cookie, the CEO says, "What's the matter? Why don't you guys appreciate the free enterprise system? After all, you're free to quit and move to Mississipp where I've heard there's a few sub-minimum wage jobs. Take your family. It'll be fun. Be free!"

When you refer to being on one side or the other, you realize of course that the question of sides stems from an old union song, written by the widow of a coal miner who lost his life in a preventable Harlen County mining accident, titled 'Which side are you on?' I mention this because of the irony of you referring to such, yet seemingly being intent on sidestepping the issue of the Bart strike. You've done the same with African Americans when discussing Republican ideology, you've done the same with women who, yes, are distributed 16D-4R in the Senate and 59D-19R in the House. To have seriously considered this difference 4-1/3-1 might well have taken you away from your ludicrous claim that these women are individuals; ludicrous because most of these women have distinguished themselves not for their individualism but rather for their membership in a party that positions itself on important issues such as women's reproductive rights, rights to 24/7 childcare, rights to not be subjected to domestic violence. These, I might suggest to you, and where Dems stand v. Reps, is far more significant than your inane suggestion that we view them as individuals. (Not surprising that a 'moderate' Republican found your words so appealing; you know, Kay Hutchinson and, say, her position on women's reproductive rights.}

And here you are again. With light touch avoiding the trenches where the hard political work is done. Systematic racism against African Americans? Heck, that's just a given, so why write about it? Systematic sexism against women? Just another given I guess. Let's talk about 'Ladies in the Senate' being individuals instead! And now unions. Oh, you're not asking me to take a side are you?

It is late, and I have been driving my truck all evening long. I do want to say, however, that I don't think you can expect much traction on your 'class analysis'. Your folksy analysis overlooks, for example, how race has become something of a place-marker for class in the US; so, some of the people who post their disdain for Bart workers are actually targeting union-members-as-black folks who are prominently featured in media-provided images. It is not fear of unions per se, or class, but the irrational, deeply seeded racist idea that it is galling to have to pay these public workers ANYTHING. Growing up in homogeneous Pleasanton community might offer some explanation for why this view remains so entrenched with so many posters on these PW sites.

And then there's the servile ones, the managers, 'professionals' -- secretaries, phone operators, middle managers -- who work hard to distinguish themselves from the working class and all the racial and ethnic connotations that goes along with it. To proclaim some sort of solidarity with fellow workers is simply too threatening for these poor folks' own identity needs.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 26, 2013 at 9:17 pm

It was "lose, lose, lose" for two BART employees who were killed. It was "lose, lose, lose" for their wives, their children, their parents, their relatives, their friends, their co-workers, and union members throughout America.

Other BART employees have also lost their lives while working. I don't know if there is a case to present to the International Criminal Court in Holland, but I hope that the matter is closely reviewed.

In my opinion, Ms. Crunican and the BART Board of Directors are guilty for the allowing employees to be placed in harms way.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Correction: In my opinion, Ms. Crunican and the BART Board of Directors are guilty for allowing employees to be placed in harms way. I request that all step down.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 10:02 am

National Labor Relations Board: Web Link

It may be helpful for some readers to review info related to workers/unions and how the NLRB functions.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 11:02 am

Hi Mike: rescue Tim? Hardly -- we haven?t even met in person. Our perspectives on some of these issues vary, as here, and when that happens we comment on each other?s stuff, too ? I?m sure he?ll weigh-in on mine as the muse moves him. But here?s the thing: he?s putting his thoughts out there once or twice a week ? with his name attached. I don?t know if you use your real name; if so, then you know that it?s different from the strafing we receive from pseudonymous scatter-hotshots, and perhaps at least it deserves a mild dial-back on the ol? snark-o-meter.

I think your thoughtful post reflects legitimate differences in perspective. Oliver, as I understand him, sees race as the overarching issue in the Left-Right struggles ? you seem to see it as workers vs. capital. As an old lawyer and Econ guy, I tend to ?follow the money? in my attempts to analyze, and convey my understanding of events. Since it?s my turn to critique, I think you?d be more effective with less hyperbole, but that?s just me. You appear to castigate my blog for not covering elements of issues that you think are important ? race in the shutdown, taking sides on this strike via something I wrote two years ago, not dealing with sexism in the ?Ladies? piece ? ironically titled, BTW. You seem to want a gonzo guy ? that?s not me, on most issues except animal welfare. I don?t think the ?shallow? charge sticks, but then I wouldn't, would I? You?re welcome to make it.

Specifically, and again, do I think racism underlies much of the Right?s anger and code language? Yes, I do ? as LBJ may have said: ?if you can convince a poor white man that he?s at least better off than a black man, you can pick his pocket ? hell, he?ll give you his money.? As a corollary, if you can stoke his fear that conditions are improving for those he disparages, he?ll act on his frustrations. I do think that hostility bubbles along in the GOP ranks ? but I don?t think it explained the specific shutdown debacle.

It?s probably there, as a factor in the BART strike, as well ? but again, not the Only factor. There?s greed there, too, which as designated working class hero, you have pointed out. But I think the model of the middle class fighting itself -- and failing to see that the problem is not who?s slightly better-off, but that we?re all substantially, economically worse-off than we were 30 years ago ? has better explanatory power, generally. I know it would be a better piece had I solved the current contract in 2011 ? guilty as charged.

Finally, the ?Ladies? piece was in response to the media, and the Senate, mis-characterizing its female membership. ?They? are not all collaborative, nor all liberal, nor fungible as I think the media (e.g. Time mag) portrayed them -- McCain?s wonderment/bafflement betrays the same chauvinistic view, and he thinks he?s complimenting ?them.? That IS the sexism that they currently face ? more so than Calvin?s treehouse ? No Girlz allowd!

I agree with you that it?s ridiculous and retrograde ? please don?t blame me if you miss my point. As more women are elected, their individual political philosophies will become more apparent, but there are some issues where their perspective as a group with common characteristics is ? and will always be -- irreplaceable. That?s my definition of Diversity ? it wasn?t always there until recently, and it?s an unqualified Good Thing.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 11:33 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Tom, I think you\'ve pointed to an issue that needs to be addressed in the corporate world. That is done by their boards, their shareholders, and consumers. So far, the inflated salaries and exit packages (I don\'t know that I\'d include the shares they are granted) of some CEOs have not been tackled. There are however, a couple problems with the story. Boards are handing the cookies to CEOs. Shareholders aren\'t voting those boards out, and there is a complacency among shareholders as long as share prices continue to rise. And many of those shareholders are pension funds. Perhaps there is an unhealthy symbiosis? In one way or another, a great many of us share an interest in the success of the company and thus are on the same side.

In the case of BART, the cookies on the table are wrested from taxpayers and by increasing fares for riders. While riders can choose not to use the system, that is not the outcome the Bay Area or BART management wants, and now the union members are tied to trying to increase ridership in order to earn a bonus. Despite considerable pressure, no one really ended up representing those providing the cookies. It seems the unhealthy symbiosis here is all internal.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Hopefully, the Union will seriously consider filing a brief with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Even if the ICC rejects the brief, it will be posted online for the international community to review. It is another way of bringing to the attention of the world that innocent workers are being killed because of work rules/conditions. In addition, it can function as an alert for the international community that they may be at risk should they choose to travel via BART. That way, they have a choice how best to get about in the bay area.
The information to all travelers could save lives.

Posted by Mike Cherry, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Well my little chickadees, another fine mess.... Don\'t worry about your slip-up using Citizen Paine as your moniker before removing and replacing the same message from Tom Cushing, you (serial?) pseudonymous scatter-hotshot you. Even that you have used the Citizen Paine ruse on your very own blog site ... I mean, really, what\'s the big deal? Because, really, only me and the other couple of readers of these posts probably witnessed your embarrassing little snafu.... Still, pretending to drum up interest in your own blog by using the name(?) of another.... That goes even beyond multiple egregious misapplications of the hyphen for purposes that we might imagine only were done because of a real need of attention.

Mike Cherry is not my legal name, Citizen Tom. I HAVE used my real name to write several opinion pieces that have appeared in The New York Times, the LATimes, and many others. Twice I turned down \'columnist\' offers from respectable newspapers, neither The NYTimes nor the LATimes, but almost in their league. I declined both times. I found I wasn\'t much good for more than one piece a month, or two months, and as such I wasn\'t temperamentally or intellectually constituted for the task, and which would have had to be done without giving up my day job. Call it pride, but I\'m averse to putting my real name to anything unless I feel I have something to say. As Bob Dylan sagely advised: Ya need to know your song well before ya start singin\'; and I don\'t know enough about enough subjects.... My training, for better or worse, has been geared for academic discourse and then only the occasional newspaper opinion piece, derived from my academic work.

But here, well, this is another story. One can be a scatter-shot hipster here, and have much fun doing it. As you know. Why you put your legal name to a blog is your own affair, of course, and I\'m criticizing neither you doing that or using multiple monikers as we now know you do.

So, in my view, it\'s all in fun. There are bloggers like yourself who desire to stretch yourself each week, with the inevitable \'thinness\' that comes from all that stretching. I\'ll have my own good fun poking holes where they need to be poked. There are other contributors who don\'t have much education, don\'t know much of a song at all, beyond simple ideological mantras, who express the same point of view, day after day, and even use their legal names, to boot, and I enjoy having my fun with them as well. Hyperbolic? Of course. Why not? As ideologues, they\'re incapable of changing their views about anything, anyway. So, a little ideational thwacking is what they deserve. (It doesn\'t deter them one bit. Here I\'m reminded of someone saying once that Stallone\'s Rocky was really smart because he knew he wasn\'t; the posters I\'m here alluding do could learn a thing or two from Rocky.)

But from my perspective, you may use Tom Cushing, Citizen Paine, or any other moniker you desire. So will I. All the more fun. Of course there are serious issues involved; but once one acknowledges that there probably aren\'t more than 5 or 6 contributors to these posts -- all using multiple monikers like yourself -- the seriousness wanes and the amusement waxes.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Somebody just got B U S T E D!


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 3:18 pm

The Fashion Week FOOLS live in Plutonia!

Web Link

Posted by Citizen Paine, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Citizen Paine is a registered user.

Oh well. Secret's certainly out now. I created the CP moniker mostly for use on the Danville site, when I didn't want my ID getting in the way of the message. He leaks out occasionally elsewhere.

I'll chalk it up to bad karma that I outed myself by forgetting which site I had signed onto -- apparently I gave commenter S-P too hard a time about plagiarizing his comments. Otherwise, I might have to admit to multiple personalities, which I would prefer to avoid. So would CP, by the way.

I am guided by no particular conventions as to punctuation, "Mike," except Trying to convey with clarity. We are limited from using bolds, or italics, or underlinings, so some of my perceived egregious failings may relate to that. I think I do okay with apostrophes and semi-colons (in case the latter are hyphenated) and my editors don't seem to mind.

I wasn't aware until just now that I had encountered The One person who knows for certain when holes need poking. I'm frankly still not sure I have, based on your few misinterpretations of what you've read so far. That said, I think I will enjoy the process of finding out -- I like to stretch. If only I really Could stretch myself thin!

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 27, 2013 at 7:25 pm

It's curious how the self will surface and bite you in the butt!

I guess when one hangs out with his tricky alters, they eventually get ticked off and do you in...tee hee hee...the self said NO MERCY!

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