Lessons of the BART standoff


EDITORIAL BART and its unions reached a tentative deal on new contracts late Monday (10/21) night, the next day restoring service that had been disrupted by the second four-day strike this year. Now, it's time for everyone to move on from this impasse — and the ugly demonization of workers that accompanied it — and try to heal the damage that was done.

Sadly, it appears to have taken the senseless deaths of two BART employees on Oct. 19 to reinforce the safety concerns that unions have raised from the beginning, undermine critics' belittling claims that "the trains run themselves" and don't need trained workers, and back the district down from its aggressive brinksmanship and preparations to run limited service during what could have been a long strike.

There are still many questions to be answered. Was the district forcing a strike with its "final offer" and last minute decision to seek more authority over work rules? Would it really have offered service to the public using scab drivers? Was the driver training that was happening on that ill-fated train a factor in the tragedy?

We may not have a definitive answer to that last question for quite awhile, but we already learned from the NTSB that BART officials were deceiving the general public when they claimed the train was simply on a maintenance run to remove graffiti and when they offered misleading answers to the Guardian's direct questions about whether driver training was being done.

Unfortunately, that was just the latest example of a pattern of behavior unbefitting of officials in a public agency. It began with the decision to pay almost $400,000 to a notoriously anti-union contract negotiator. It continued through stall tactics and an aggressive public relations strategy. And it culminated with seeking sweeping authority over work rules at the 11th hour and following up with training new drivers as soon as a strike was underway, apparently hoping to run enough service that the unions would be forced to accept a bad contract.

None of that should have happened, and it was only possible because the financially healthy district played off of the conservative campaigns against public employee unions of recent years to undermine the public image of their workers and deny them reasonable raises and safety improvements.

The media is also culpable, particularly the editorial writers at the San Francisco Chronicle and Bay Area News Group, which ran vitriolic and false rants condemning workers and unions, even supporting Republican calls to outlaw strikes by transportation workers.

Only in the funhouse mirror they created was it possible to credibly push the ridiculous claim that unions were striking because they were afraid of using email. It's not necessary to dehumanize and demean our adversaries. We in the progressive Bay Area are better than that, and maybe now we can act like it.


had little or no sympathy for them. The good news is that, now the principle of BART workers contributing to their pensions (shock, horror) has been established, it will be easier to ratchet that up next time.

These entitled workers are on borrowed time.

Posted by anon on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 10:50 am

in the fist place (and it does - whether it is directly paid by BART to the pension fund or paid to the fund by workers with the very same money - that BART instead paid to them first)

what difference does it make who is paying the same exact money to the same exact pension fund?

the only difference in this current case is that workers will now pay a small part of the pension fund out of their existing salaries when they weren't before, thereby saving BART money and lowering worker pay

it's a pay cut

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

in your paycheck makes you feel more involved. It establishes the principle that people should be responsible for their own pensions.

It also makes it easier in the future to up their contributions if the pension fund is under-funded.

Ideally and eventually, the pension obligations should be split up into a separate pool of assets.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

it makes more sense to pay a good professional management house to implement the fund so that it is run effectively for everyone no matter what their economic experience and expertise

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

different approaches to risk. The profile also changes with age.

With a personal pension, people are still free to use professional managers if they wish, but can also do their own investment management if they wish.

And such pensions are portable - change your job and you take it with you.

All reasons why IRA's and 401K's are wildly popular.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

clearly the workers will get a better deal from the economies and protections of scale that a large fund can bring

throwing workers out into the wild of the economic market would simply release them to be picked off one by one by rapacious sharp toothed wall street sharks

i've got news for you

Friedman is dead

and Greenspan admitted openly that chicago school theory

was wrong

time to join the 21st century

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 12:56 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

could be a nonprofit fund

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

Vanguard supposedly do not make a profit, but they do make a surplus and pay good bonuses.

Hey ho.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

Ask anyone over 30 whether their DC retirement plan is poised to provide a secure retirement!

Posted by marcos on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

plan or no plan.

But why are you worried? You own SF real estate and can always sell it for your retirement.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by nlkih on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

My DC plan from my previous employer, managed conservatively, is much better than the DB plan from the same employer. So, hell yes!

I took responsibility for my retirement a long time ago; I believe it is foolish for anyone to believe that a DB plan will still be there over the long haul. Take personal responsibility!

Posted by Richmondman on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

Guest, the "principle" that you're standing up for is a relatively new one that has been pushed by the rich and the right. Traditionally, employees didn't pay for their own pensions, they were paid for by their employers as an incentive and reward for an employee's loyal service. The current view that every individual should pay for his or her own retirement security -- having no idea how long they will live -- is a damaging and myopic perspective that is destined to be a failure, probably in the near future as the baby boomers reach their twilight years.

Posted by steven on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

Right, because we want to disincentivize workers taking better jobs.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

that you spend a 40 year working life with the same employer. That was true 50 years ago when everyone had a DB plan. But these days, good workers change jobs a lot and bad workers tend to get fired or laid off.

Therefore a portable individual pension is much better, and is why IRA's and 401K's are booming while DB plans are virtually extinct outside the public sector, and being gradually reformed even within the public sector.

Employers really should not be in the business of providing financial products like pensions and insurance. Ideally, all plans would be cancelled and a block payment made to workers who can then make their own customized arrangements.

It would also let the taxpayer off the hook for these massive unfunded liabilities that are driving some cities into bankruptcy.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

so we should make pensions 100% portable just as we should make health care 100% portable

we should have, not only, Medicare for all

but also a national pension program above and beyond social security

that way, no matter where a worker goes his or her pension continues to grow and stay with them

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

policies. However, I do think US businesses would be more efficient, effective and competitive if they were not burdened with having to provide benefits for workers that would be better purchased by the worker himself, perhaps using vouchers or block grants.

What cannot happen is any further increase in the cost of these plans, either to employers or to the taxpayer.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

idea would work out, of establishing a floating benefit program bought from myriad private providers by consumers who have to navigate the process on their own

so by all means let's get employers out of the health care and pension business

and instead just establish universal, single payer, health care *and* pension plans

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

The Obamacare website fiasco doesn't make you question the government's ability to run a single payer system? Or do you think Obama intentionally sabotaged his crowning achievement?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

is that obama's program is not a simple single payer system, it is a ridiculously complex joke that basically forces tens of millions of people to pay myriad insurance companies absurd profits while leaving tens of millions of other people without coverage

medicare is single payer, nonprofit, covers everyone (all seniors), and is very simple; so simple that it doesn't require a web site to figure it out and get signed up ;)

Posted by vlkjdiu on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

The public option was rejected even by the Democrats.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

and the the *people* (note, not the Democrats or Republicans) supported the public option

the fact that gutless corporate controlled politicians didn't support it is not a reflection of what the public actually wants

Posted by vhkhdoih on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

would compound that problem.

Also, many doctors refuse to take MediCare patients because the payments are inadequate.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

Underfunded Medicare should be expanded? You want the US to become Greece sooner?


Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 3:07 pm
Posted by vlkjlooi on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

Why didn't I think of that?

Everything can be free!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

into the health care industry, providing a net benefit to the economy, especially in light of the facts that health care would cost less, and that no employer would then have to cover the bloated health care and insurance costs of the current system

employers would see a net benefit (probably a very large one) part of that benefit would be taxed to help fund the program, but businesses would see a net savings

that's good for everyone, including you

if you knee-jerk anti-tax simpletons would just learn to look past the tip of your own noses and to the real economic benefit you would receive from such programs, you'd stop opposing them

Posted by vlkjloo on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 5:09 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

as long as we don't tax and borrow in excess of rising gdp

get an economics education

Posted by vkdjg on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

each year. I'd say that is "above GDP".

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

get an economics education

and then reply when you actually know what you are talking about

Posted by vkdj on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

We passed that point long ago. Taxes will have to rise significantly just to run deficits under 2% of GDP. We'll be hard-pressed to reduce the deficit to that before the national debt is 150% of GDP. Major new expenditures aren't in the cards.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

but a program that will so vastly increase economic activity in every sector (except for the health insurance market) and thereby create positive tax benefit to the treasury

will not increase that debt problem

if you want to properly deal with debt, help get the government to stop paying trillions on relatively low employment high tech weapons manufacturing

Posted by vk on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

We are now so indebted that taxes will have to rise just to service the debt, and government will shrink. You'll have one thing you think you like -- high taxes -- but none of the benefits. Imagine Detroit on a national scale. Those of us with the skills and assets to insulate ourselves or relocate will be okay, but entitled freeloaders like you are in for a very rude awakening.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

medicare for all would not fit into that debt paradigm

Posted by elxdkjfv on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

so that is not a good model for those of us who like our current doctors.

And Obama promised that "nobody would lose access to their doctor". It's not true.

MediCare is also hopelessly under-funded, although not as much as MediCaid is.

Posted by anon on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

pass laws requiring all doctors to accept it

and raise taxes to fully fund it

(and note that the massive savings from universal Medicare would also help fund the system)

Posted by vlkjlooi on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

All you can do is throw money and him and hope that he does anyway.

Or hope that he doesn't move to Asia.

The best doctors do not like to work for the same money as the worst doctors.

Anyway it is all moot as the Democrats in the Senate nixxed the idea, under withering criticism from a grassroots peoples' protest against runaway costs and death panels.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

when was the last time a restaurant refused to serve someone because they were black?

likewise doctors can be mandated to not discriminate against patients as long as their care is paid for

BUT more importantly, in the medicare-for-all scenario

can you please explain to me how U.S. doctors would *not* being seeing medicare customers

since every single patient in the country would be under medicare no matter what their income level?

some advice

process with brain first

then type

Posted by vlkjlo on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

How many prospective doctors will pay half a million in tuition and opportunity cost to scrape by on Medicare payments? Set price ceilings and you'll get shortages and decreased quality.

Posted by Eric Lilliracer on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

that every other major industrialized nation has top quality doctors under fully nationalized health care with no problems whatsoever

Posted by vl on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

Almost as if you acknowledge that out system is better.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

you buy me a house in the basque country and a plane ticket so that i can afford it and i'll move to europe

until then can you stop repeatedly making a horse's ass of yourself with that utterly pathetic and stupid argument?

it is just as inane tonight as it was the first 5 million times you repeated it

Posted by vkdjg on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:11 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

Lilliracer, always asking for handouts

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

i was born in california, it is my home

i have no intention of leaving

Posted by vkdj on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

doctor can easily refuse to accept those who pay less.

It's not discrimination to choose higher-paying clients.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

in every major industrialized country that has universal health care (which is all of them except for our own)

this is simply not a problem

at all

Posted by vkdjg on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

many key tests and procedures.

In fact, Canada often sends its patients to the US for treatment, because they lack the capacity, because they do not have the incentives.

In Europe, people often fly to the Us for treatment rather than wait and wait and wait.

Make something valuable free and demand becomes infinite.

Anyway, we had the debate and you lost. All you got is this ball of crap that is ObamaCare. End of story.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 28, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

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