Whether BART closes down this week will come down to one issue and one issue only: whether the BART Board of Directors shows leadership or continues to act to hold Bay Area transit riders hostage by using the same playbook a small minority of elected officials in Washington, DC have used to close down our federal government.
No one in the Bay Area—whether they ride BART or not—wants to see a BART strike. This is especially true of BART workers, who live in one of the most expensive regions in the world and do not receive a paycheck while they are on strike.
To demonstrate their commitment to reaching a deal before cooling-off period expires tonight, BART workers have put a proposal on the table that is fair and affordable and incentivizes BART workers to keep the system one of the nation's best.
But while BART workers have made three new public proposals in the past 10 days, management has offered zero. In fact, they haven’t put out a new wage proposal publicly for more than 50 days. Here’s where negotiations stand:
Just last week, BART workers agreed to cut their wage demands in half and pick up additional costs for their pensions and health care coverage. BART workers reached a deal with management that would have workers contribute an escalating share of their pensions over the next four years. They also have offered to increase their monthly payments for health coverage by 15 percent.
BART workers also proposed linking future additional pay raises to increased ridership. Workers proposed an innovative plan to link future additional pay increases to projected increases in ridership. Daily BART ridership has increased from 270,000 riders in 1999 to nearly 400,000 riders today. At the same time, there are fewer BART workers in vital frontline positions serving more passengers. Under the new proposal, BART workers would receive a small fraction of a percent raise for increases in ridership over budget projections.
Finally, BART workers have proposed real-world improvements to key safety and service issues, like safer procedures for working on the third rail, better lighting on tracks and in tunnels and open restrooms in stations.
This issue is not a smokescreen. BART’s actions have put workers and riders at risk, and workers are justifiably angry. For example, over the past 10 years, state safety regulators repeatedly fined BART for directing district workers without electrician training or certification to work near the electrified third rail. Instead of reforming its procedures, BART management responded by authorizing more than $300,000 for attorneys to fight state safety regulators.
This deal is smart, fair and will result in better BART service and BART directors should tell district management and negotiators to accept it.
At this point, the burden of leadership is on BART management to strike a deal that puts riders and workers first.
Those ultimately accountable for the situation—BART’s elected Board of Directors—must step in and act responsibly before it’s too late. The Directors can no longer remain silent as BART management and its negotiators dismiss fair and reasonable proposals because of their opposition to labor unions. It’s time that the Board of Directors lead as they were elected to do and to help bring a resolution to these drawn-out negotiations.