BART workers' fight is most people's fight

The specter of a BART strike highlights how obviously dependent we are on a reliable transit system run by experienced and competent operators, station agents, and technicians.

Unfortunately, your Sept. 20 editorial "Region Must Prepare for BART Strike," encouraged the public to see BART workers as the villains, telling us BART management bares no blame for the lack of progress in negotiations.

In reality, most Bay Area residents, wage workers and salaried professionals, have a lot more in common with BART workers than with management, the board or the general manager.

BART workers are looking for a salary increase that would have put them slightly ahead of inflation after the contributions they are being asked to make to their pension and health programs while BART management has held pretty fast to a smaller pay increase, which will result in overall salary cuts.

Consider the fact that BART workers gave up about $100 million in concessions in their 2009 contract when management projected a $300 million deficit over four years. Then, in 2010 and 2012, BART turned around and declared surpluses as ridership went up.

It now projects a $125 million surplus for the next 10 years, and some of the directors had proposed compensating the workers for maintaining BART's on-time and safety record in the next round of negotiations.


Advertisement

But BART is now saying money is needed to expand the system, update the trains, keep fares down. BART's negotiator, Tom Hock, refused to use the 60-day cooling-off period to negotiate, but told the union he would see them on Day 56. That doesn't indicate a willingess to negotiate.

The public would be foolish to unite behind BART management. Allowing another big section of the Bay Area work force to suffer cuts to wages and benefits and job integrity harms everybody. Local employers will feel justified in pushing down their salary and benefit packages.

Employment gains in the U.S have always followed those made by the labor movement.

Anybody who grew up here in the 1950s and 1960s remembers how our parents, without master's degrees and big professional titles, were able to buy homes and send us to college, usually based on one household salary alone.

Perhaps we should all reflect on who continues to benefit from the Wall Street debacle while telling the rest of us to accept austerity. BART management's decision to pay a union-busting lawyer who represents a private transit operator appears to be a part of a national push to enrich an elite at the expense of what the public used to count on — reliable service and good public jobs.

Withdrawing our support for BART workers when they have a chance to stand up and fight back is hardly going to do much good for the rest of us. Their fight is our fight.

Laura Thomas

Let's not politicize diplomatic events

The Alameda Sister City Association (ASCA) was a spinoff from the Social Services Human Relations Board (SSHRB). It was established as a way of implementing the program that President Dwight D. Eisenhower initiated in 1956. Its aim is to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation. Currently, Alameda's sister cities are Lidingo, Sweden; Arita, Japan; and Wuxi, China. Wuxi is the latest addition to our list of sister cities, and we look forward to establishing more Sister City relationships with other countries in the future to further promote cultural exchange.

I believe that the Sister City program is a great way for our citizens to gain firsthand knowledge and experience of other cultures. A few months ago, a group of middle-school students from Wuxi visited Alameda through our Sister City program. It's about getting to know people from different countries at a personal level, without politics. It's about recognizing and celebrating diversity that would, hopefully, pave the way toward greater understanding and cooperation.

The China National Day ceremony had been held twice in front of Alameda City Hall in the past without any incident. Both occasions were attended by hundreds of Alamedans in a festive and harmonious manner. The flag-raising portion of the event is purely ceremonial and does not involve the use of the flag poles at our City Hall. The flags of the United States, the State of California and the City of Alameda are not lowered or replaced during the entire event. What had been done in the past, and what was planned for this year's event, was to bring in two similar poles, which are about 10 feet tall, and use these to raise the flags of the United States and China during the ceremony. Then both flags are taken down after the event. Under no circumstances will I suggest or even entertain the notion of having the flag of our country, state, or city be replaced by the flag of China or of any other foreign country in any of our city property.

I joined the event on Oct. 1 to celebrate the Chinese culture and the people of China in the same manner that I attended the Philippine Independence Day celebration that was held in June; and, in a week, I will also attend the 102nd anniversary of the independence of the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan. I think that we need to look beyond politics to recognize and honor the heritage of the different people that make up our country.

Stewart Chen

Alameda City Council member