People across the Bay Area were shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic death of two BART workers on Saturday. Less than two days into the BART strike the lives of two people were taken due to BART management’s incompetence, recklessness, willful neglect and disregard for those who operate the BART system.
For months the well-paid management have spewed forth lies and contempt for the workers who maintain and operate the system every day. Now, through this tragedy, the public, including those who might have been taken in by management’s campaign, can see what is at stake.
Disregard For The Safety of Workers and Riders
Management has painted BART workers as greedy, lazy, overpaid workers who do nothing but sit in station booths or push buttons on the trains. This tragedy shows the reality. BART is a complex system operated and maintained by trained, competent and dedicated workers. When management claims that train operators sit and just push buttons all day, they know it is a lie. Operating a train involves months of intense training, and a high level of concentration and coordination with those who oversee the movement of trains transporting hundreds of thousands of people each day. And we can see the tragic consequence of this disrespect. The blood is on their hands.
The safety of riders is dependent on BART workers – from the time they enter the station until they leave the train. This year assaults on station agents have increased nearly two-fold. When workers say it is not safe for them to open stations in the early morning or close them late at night, it is a reality that affects the safety of workers and riders.
A Disregard For Us All
Management’s attacks on BART workers are in fact an attack on us all. How many people who work each day feel disrespected by their bosses? How many are pushed to cut corners, pick up extra work, and skip breaks – all in the name of getting the job done. Many of us have had our wages fall behind inflation, and pay more for medical benefits and pension costs – if we even have them.
Our Common Interests
The media campaign encourages resentment against BART workers because they are demanding wage increases (after having a 4-year wage freeze). Why should workers agree to cuts that would come from increases to payments into their medical and pension plans? Why should they give management free reign when it comes to work rules – which impact working conditions?
Why should any of us think they should accept these attacks? How does dragging another group of workers down benefit us? We should want the opposite – to see workers win this fight. It could set a higher goal and possibilities for us all.
An Attack On Us All
The attack, against BART workers aims to divide and discourage us – to convince us that BART workers don’t have a right to a level of security that we all deserve. Are we supposed to believe that those who control or manage things today represent our best interests? We should know better.
Look at the condition of our schools – are teachers to blame? Look at the growing disparity of wealth in society – are poor and working people to blame? Look at the growing cost of healthcare – are hospital workers to blame? When people are forced from their homes – did they trick themselves into bad mortgages? Of course not!
One voice has been missing and needs to be heard is the voice of the BART workers. It is clear that they cannot rely on the corporate media to present the truth. But they could speak for themselves – directly to riders and people they know – through fliers and other means.
We need to see our common interests. And when we do and stand together we might begin to see other possibilities. Workers in the Bay Area have a tremendous power. We can use that power to win a different future. This is what the bosses fear. The choice is ours.