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This is unlikely to change striking BART workers' attitudes, because they have been tone-deaf to public sentiment, but the overwhelming majority of readers I've heard from are stationed just this side of outrage in their view of labor's part in the contract impasse.

The emails started flooding in after I offered a fairly harsh critique of union negotiators' demands and the perverse logic they used in blaming management for their need to strike. My inbox piled nearly four dozen emails deep.

I'm accustomed to hearing from people who question my intellect. And from people who doubt my parents were married. Much of my correspondence arrives singed around the edges. But these folks were writing to say they agreed:

  • "I am so fed up with the BART employees' unions' greed and total control of our lives. They are unreasonable; they already have so much more than the majority of the public."

  • "I hope the good thing that comes of the BART employee greediness is that they will lose the right to strike. It is hard to believe that, while they already have more generous pay and perks than the majority of their riders, they are demanding even more."

  • "Riders and taxpayers need to unite and stand up to these greedy unions that are so out of touch with reality and could care less about their clients that support them."


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    The overriding theme seemed to be that transit strikes should be outlawed. A few folks thought everyone should be fired, citing Ronald Reagan's handling of air traffic controllers. Some want the BART system privatized, and these were not button-down conservatives, as far as I could tell.

    "I grew up a liberal in Berkeley," one wrote, "but this whole BART nonsense is making me rethink my position on workers and unions."

    "I'm not following the negotiations very closely," wrote another, "but I sure don't understand labor's intransigence, and I'm a labor guy."

    And another: "I'm usually left of center; nobody would call me a conservative or a down-with-unions type, but this has become such an egregious situation ..."

    Imagine how angry they'll be when they learn what another emailer shared. He said he knows two train operators who openly talk about how they "game" the system in which they work. He said they "trade" sick days to manipulate work shifts and guarantee overtime pay.

    That falls nicely in line with this writer's sentiments: "I have written my state legislators and demanded that BART unions have a no-strike clause. These current union deceptions, half-truths and outright lies are the product of self-entitlement."

    Then there was one expression of incredulity at labor's demands: "I'm a 27-year-old law school graduate and BART rider who gets no benefits of any kind, and I'm just lucky to have a full-time job in San Francisco that pays me something."

    Annoyance was not restricted solely to public employees. One comment was typical of many like it: "What is driving me crazy is the lack of concern for the riders by legislators. Where are they? Now is the time to get a bill in place that will not allow this to happen again in a few years when this contract nonsense will have another go around. I hope all riders remember this lack of support during election time."

    Do you suppose everyone in Sacramento is tone-deaf, too?

    Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.