Much of the news media has portrayed BART workers as a greedy, self-serving bunch. But at the same time transit workers are being told to sacrifice, the Bay area wealthy and the politicians are celebrating Larry Ellison’s showplace of billionaires – the America’s Cup, as a positive contribution to the Bay Area.
That may be true if you are sitting on top of millions or billions of dollars. But that isn’t the case for the majority of us. We all know someone who has been laid off due to the crisis created by the rich. Many of us have watched our standard of living drop because of a wage freeze or wage cuts, along with increased costs for medical care and pension plans – if we have them. We have watched our schools de-funded and other public services be cut because of their crisis.
BART workers are under attack because they earn what is considered to be a base-level wage by those who specialize in an accurate analysis of the true cost of living in the Bay Area. BART and AC workers are under attack because they do not want to continue to have their wages fall behind the rising cost of living in one of the most expensive areas of the country. And they want some guarantee of safe working conditions, good health care and a decent pension when they retire.
The idea that BART and AC Transit workers should give up wages and benefits because others are being pressured to do so is nonsense! The bosses know very well if such a visible group of workers can defend themselves and begin to turn back the attacks being mounted against them, that this could set a new pattern for other workers.
The managements of BART and AC Transit have acted in an arrogant and disrespectful manner toward the workers – claiming that they are greedy and overpaid, acting like the work people do is of little or no value. The importance of these transit systems shows just the opposite. The work people do to operate and maintain these systems each and every day is essential to our lives.
A strike will be difficult for hundreds of thousands of people to get around each day. That just shows the importance of these systems to our lives. And this is where the pressure can be applied, when we look at who really benefits from the work of BART and AC Transit workers. How many large corporations have workers delivered practically to their doorstep by these publicly funded transit systems? What would the value of the properties they own or rent be if they were not accessible by public transit?
We not only live in one of the most expensive areas of the country. We are surrounded by incredible wealth – held by large corporations and banks and numerous billionaires and multi-millionaires.
So, if there really is a need for more money to be put into public transit – which is essential for the functioning of our lives and to a more sane and ecological approach to life – the money is there! But we know full well that those who control the wealth are not going to give it up without a fight. And that is why the struggle of BART workers and hopefully AC workers is so important.
Workers can’t let the bosses and their media turn riders against transit workers. BART workers and AC workers should not have their futures being negotiated separately. All transit workers need to fight for our future together if we want to have the best chance to win. Transit workers have the potential to make an important step toward securing a more livable future for all Bay Area workers. But such gains usually mean a major fight needs to be made. And workers can’t afford to leave our fate in the hands of the union officials, while we are kept in the dark. To win this fight BART and AC workers will have to organize the fight ourselves, depend on our own forces and also reach out for the support of other workers.