Saunders: Even the BART strike winners lose
October 25, 2013
It took the awful deaths of Bay Area Rapid Transit engineer Chris Sheppard and contractor Laurence Daniels on Saturday to end a BART strike that never should have happened in the first place. Thank you, BART unions, for putting the public's best interest last.
Winners and losers:
Transit strikes. They work. Before BART workers began their second strike of the year Friday, management was offering four annual 3 percent pay raises. The deal reached Monday boosted worker raises to 15.4 percent. Yes, the deal for the first time makes BART workers pay toward their pensions, and it boosts employee health care contributions, but the bigger raises effectively reimburse labor for these increases.
Chief negotiator Thomas Hock. BART paid him a $399,000 contract to reach a contract that any amateur could have brokered — without a strike.
Public employee unions. Labor leaders claim that their raises benefit everyone, as other employers will follow suit. Who believes that? In this economy, private-sector employers aren't going to give employees raises to fund their pension contributions. The only people who stand to reap the same benefits as BART workers are nonunion BART staffers, who automatically receive the same benefits and pay increases even though the laborites hate them. Everyone else is out of luck.
Orinda, Calif. City Councilman Steve Glazer. The adviser to California Gov. Jerry Brown and candidate for state Assembly is the first area Democrat to push for a law to ban public transit strikes. Angry commuters stranded by the strike are likely to remember his name at the ballot.
Google buses. Their drivers don't strike.
Public transit riders. No matter how much you pay in taxes and fares, the decision to strike made it official: You come last.
Elected transit boards. As former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata wrote in an email to me, "BART and AC (Transit) boards should not be elected. There is no justification. It only encourages other elected officials to become third party meddlers."
Jean Quan. In a field of preening camera-hogging politicians at the strike's end, the Oakland mayor stood out even though she spent part of the strike on a trade trip in China.
Big labor's image. In not budging on horse-and-buggy work rules until a tentative deal was announced, union leaders aligned themselves solidly with paper pay stubs, no email and other archaic rules. In California's tech capital, BART labor is a sputtering oil lamp.
Do labor leaders think young adults watched this strike and thought, "These guys are fighting for me"?
I think the answer can be seen in a San Francisco Chronicle poll of local politicians — all Democrats, of course. None would commit to backing a ban on transit strikes, but many lawmakers — including Gov. Brown and state Sens. Mark Leno of San Francisco and Loni Hancock of Berkeley — wouldn't say no.
When officials from the most pro-labor bastions of liberalism won't cut that idea off at the knees, you know big public employee unions are losing voters.
Email Debra J. Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Debra J. Saunders and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at http://www.creators.com.