After four days on strike BART bosses and union officials called it off, extended the existing contract and began a 30-day extension of negotiations. AC Transit workers’ contract expired June 30th but they didn’t go on strike.
For four days, BART riders didn’t have trains get where they needed to go. People didn’t go to work or they were late. The media gave major coverage of the disruption caused by the BART strike. The TV news featured long lines of people waiting for buses, chartered by BART management (at the cost of millions of dollars), showed traffic jams and interviews of unhappy riders who had to spend extra hours in their commute time.
The media repeated the lies told by management about supposedly over-paid BART workers. Pre-tax wages, benefits and overtime were presented as if it was the average workers’ take-home pay.
BART management played a numbers game. Budget surpluses were turned into deficits. A notorious union-busting negotiator was hired to coordinate the attack. And, the BART bosses refused to participate in serious negotiations for months. They forced the workers to go on strike with their insulting contract offer of no raise and then tried to turn frustrated commuters against the workers on strike.
The bosses wanted to make an example of the BART workers because they are high-profile public workers. There was a constant attack on BART workers whose wages are above the poverty line and who have a benefit package that includes health and retirement benefits. The bosses point to workers whose wages are lower and have been forced to pay hundreds of dollars a month for benefits, if they even have benefits. The bosses say that it isn’t fair for BART and AC workers to think they deserve what they have. That it isn’t fair to other workers.
The bosses are right. It isn’t fair. But not because BART workers aren’t earning poverty-level wages. It isn’t fair because no worker should be disrespected and forced to live in poverty. All workers have a right to work at a decent wage and have health care, pensions and other benefits.
The strike showed how important the BART workers are and that they cannot be ignored. These workers showed what every worker knows – no matter how much the bosses disrespect and try to devalue us, our work is essential to the functioning of society. Nothing happens without us.
The managers who are paid millions to attack the workers are not necessary to make things run. If BART General Manger Grace Crunican or AC Transit’s David J. Armijo and their high-paid cohorts didn’t come to work for a week, who would notice? But workers are essential. So, when BART and AC workers say they cannot meet their bills with wages that have been frozen for years and pay for the increasing cost of health care, they are telling the truth! It is a truth that workers across the Bay Area, the country and the world feel every day.
The bosses’ media complains about disruption, but the bosses’ drive for profits disrupts and destroys lives every day. Their banks have forced people from their homes because of mortgage scams or their frozen wages or because they were laid off and couldn’t keep up with payments. People are out of work while others are forced to work overtime just to make ends meet. Our children’s education is being shortchanged supposedly because there isn’t enough money. Relationships are shattered as stress mounts over how to try to keep our households together.
The bosses and union officials have their 30 days to make a deal. The workers have this time to decide and act together for what they want and how they want to get it. AC and BART workers have every interest in making their fight together and using their collective power. And other workers in the Bay Area have every reason to support them. A successful fight by any group of workers can begin to put and an end to this destruction of our lives.