Editor’s Note: UnionWatch contributor Mike Shedlock provides some perspective on the BART strike that began today, their 2nd this year. One impasse relates to the refusal of management to submit to binding arbitration on the remaining areas of dispute. Good for management. The possibility of getting an even worse result in binding arbitration is the leverage public sector unions have used for years to intimidate politicians into signing deals that taxpayers couldn’t possibly afford. We’re just beginning to pay the price for years of union control over our state and local governments. If you want to see where this could end up, read Shedlock’s subsequent post covering “unfair competition laws,” etc., in France,” where union power is destroying what vestiges of private initiative and vitality remain in that troubled economy. By any reasonable definition, BART employees are public sector workers, and they are among the most overpaid of the entire overpaid, unionized, public sector workforce. The BART strike is another example of why public sector unions should be illegal. If BART’s management truly cares about the public they serve, they would fire every worker who doesn’t report to work Monday morning.
The average BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) worker makes over $76,000 per year, plus huge benefits. Janitors make as much as $82,752. But the unions want more. And they are willing to bankrupt the region to get more.
In my opinion, San Francisco is already bankrupt due to pension obligations that cannot possibly be met (but the city may not realize that yet).
Oakland is without a doubt bankrupt due to public union pension obligations. Oakland city officials likely realize that (but they just do not want to admit the obvious).
In due time, both Bay Area cities will follow Vallejo, Stockton, and San Bernardino into bankruptcy. In the meantime, unions are hell bent are driving cities right over the bankruptcy cliff.
With that backdrop, please consider San Francisco Bay Area transit unions threaten midnight strike.
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit workers are threatening a midnight strike because contract talks have reached an impasse.
Earlier Thursday, Roxanne Sanchez, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said the transit agency and its two largest unions have “come extremely close” to agreement on economic, health care and pension issues. However, she said the parties remained apart on work rule issues.
She said the workers would walk off the job at midnight unless BART officials agree to submit the remaining issue to arbitration.
Talks began in April, three months before the June 30 contract expirations, but both sides were far apart. The unions initially asked for 23.2 percent in raises over three years. BART countered with a four-year contract with 1% raises contingent on the agency meeting economic goals.
Workers represented by the two unions, including more than 2,300 mechanics, custodians, station agents, train operators and clerical staff, now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually, the transit agency said. BART workers currently pay $92 a month for health care and contribute nothing toward their pensions.
BART Workers Plan to Strike Friday
SF Gate reports BART Workers Plan to Strike Friday
Roxanne Sanchez, president of Service Employees International Union 1021, said Thursday afternoon that they met BART on its health care and pension requests, but the two sides still could not come to an agreement on pay and work conditions.
“We made concessions, but you can only bend so far before you break,” Sanchez said. “This is the way they want to solve the conflict, in a fight, a street fight.”
BART’s General Manager Grace Crunican said there are certain rights that management needed to retain.
“The union decided they would take the money on the table but not the work rules on the table,” she said. That’s when BART asked unions to take the offer to its membership for a vote. Crunican said the offer remains on the table until Oct. 27 and if approved, the deal would be retroactive to July 1. If a vote is taken after Oct/ 27, the contract offer would no longer be retroactive.
BART’s final offer included a 12 percent raise over four years and provisions that would have employees paying a 4 percent pension contribution and a 9.5 percent increase in their health-insurance contribution.
BART’s Offer Overly Generous
Mercury News reports BART workers’ paychecks already outpace their peers’
BART workers easily earned the most money on average last year among the 25 largest government agencies in the Bay Area, the newspaper’s review of public employee payroll data shows. What’s more, BART employees also topped the list of the highest-paid transit operators in California.
And the results are not close. Even when eliminating high-paid police officers and executives, the average gross pay for the blue-collar BART union workers who are threatening another shutdown was $76,551 last year.
Overall, BART’s average employee — executives included — made nearly $30,000 more than employees at Los Angeles’ transit line, and nearly $10,000 more than those at San Francisco Muni, the state’s second-highest paid transit workers.
“(BART unions) have a degree of leverage from a strike perspective that many other industries don’t, and this is a classic example of them capitalizing on it,” said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles-based economics consulting firm. “If you ask me, it’s a tiny bit short of blackmail: ‘Give me the money or the commute’s going to get it.’ “
No Shortage of Workers
The BART gravy train has no shortage of applicants.
Mercury news reports “Since 2007, BART has received nearly 65,000 job applications for about 1,800 line-level union openings.”
Public Employee Salary Database
Mercury news has an interesting interactive map of Public Employee Salaries in the Bay Area that inquiring minds may wish to take a peek at.
Message From FDR
Inquiring minds are reading snips from a Letter from FDR Regarding Collective Bargaining of Public Unions written August 16, 1937.
All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.
The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations.
Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees.
A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.
For more on public union slavery, coercion, bribery, and scapegoating please see …
Best Way to Deal With Public Unions
The best way to deal with public unions is to not deal with them at all. Ronald Reagan had the right idea when he fired all of the PATCO workers.
Scott Walker had the right idea in Wisconsin when he ended collective bargaining of some public unions. Unfortunately, Walker failed to include police and firefighters.
Actual Wisconsin results prove Union-Busting is a “Godsend”; Elimination of Collective Bargaining is the Single Best Thing one Can do for School Kids
It’s time to implement national right-to-work laws and put an end to public union collective bargaining nationally.
About the Author: Mike Shedlock is the editor of the top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis, offering insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.