Workers certainly need the right to strike

I certainly do believe that public transit workers should be allowed to strike. A resounding yes! I, like many others, rely on public transportation (BART) to travel to and from work. I find it to be convenient and cost-effective. Although the brief BART strike of early last month caused a great deal of anger, frustration and inconvenience, we must look at the big picture.

Unions in America have played a pivotal role in empowering workers, and giving them a voice in improving their working conditions, wages and benefits. The right to strike is a vital tool in ensuring this.

Do we really want to go back to the days when workers were severely penalized for going on strike, or even considering striking? If public transit workers were not allowed to strike, where would it end?

It will set a bad precedence, which will eventually affect other sectors of the work force. The right to strike has survived the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and, in most recent times, President Ronald Reagan's firing of the air traffic controllers back in 1981, shortly after taking office.

The right of public transit workers to strike may seem ominous to some in the short run, but I believe that, in the long term, it helps to foster a constructive relationship between worker and employers.


Advertisement

As a card-carrying member of the SEIU, I am not particularly interested in the regression of labor relations in this country.

Tyron C. Jordan

Oakland

People being made to pay for extravagances

It seems that no one has talked about the cost to the consumers (the working folks in the Bay Area) if the BART employees were to get the salary increases that they are requesting and if they continue to contribute nothing to their retirement plans and pay almost nothing for their medical insurance.

The cost to BART for the medical insurance keeps going up. Who do you think is going to pay for the salary increase and the continued retirement and medical insurance costs?

It is us, the consumer/riders who will pay. And most of us make significantly less than the BART employees.

Wake up people of the Bay Area! The employees of BART are paid more than a living wage with extremely generous benefits. As costs for these benefits and salaries go up, your usable income is going to go down.

Fares will rise on a system that is already expensive to ride. In New York, you can ride the subway, or bus, any distance for a flat $2.50. The cheapest normal fare from one station to another (South Hayward to Union City) is $1.75. From South Hayward to the Embarcadero is $4.90.

Stop supporting the BART workers, no matter what their demands will cost you, the public, if they are met time after time.

Arnold V. Becker

Hayward

Treat public transit like it is a utility

Public transportation is like a utility. People are dependent on it. It causes chaos and extreme hardship when public transportation doesn't run. People without cars can't get to work, students can't get to school, seniors become house bound and everyone with cars are forced to drive, spewing pollution into the air, creating a health hazard. So, no, they should not be allowed to strike.

We pay for this service with fares and, in addition, we subsidize it with our sales tax dollars.

The BART workers also earn way more than most blue-collar workers and way more than teachers, and it is not sustainable.

BART is dirty and has millions of dollars in deferred maintenance, which is where the tax dollars need to be used.

Finally, most families can't ride BART as a family since it is so expensive (family of four), so they are forced to drive and further pollute the air, even though we subsidize the system with our sales taxes.

Meanwhile, the BART employees and their families get to ride for free! No, they shouldn't be allowed to strike, but mainly because it is similar to a utility.

Michele Jordan

Oakland

Transit should have binding arbitration

Overall, I believe in an adequately strong labor movement as a bulwark against rapacious capitalism, whose goal is to destroy labor and regulatory obstacles in their search for profits.

However, I believe there should be some regulatory restraints on labor as well. Certain occupations are so critical and potentially damaging to whole economies that mandated arbitration is a must.

I suggest that each side present its best offer to the arbitration board, which then must choose between them. No further haggling or grandstanding, just a clean, honest offer from each side and a clean, straight answer from the board, period. Let's stop all of this posturing. It's in the best interests of all.

Anne Spanier

Alameda

No-strike clause is needed for transit

What will it take to get a no-strike clause put into place with BART and any of the other local muni transportation agencies? We, as taxpayers/adults, should not be held hostage by the actions of these "children.''

New York City and other metropolitan areas across the country that are dependent upon public transportation have this clause in place. I would also appreciate if the media did not add to the frenzy with their countdown in minutes and seconds.

Maren Giannini

Castro Valley

Troubled by public's anti-worker remarks

I have been deeply troubled by the anti-worker remarks I have heard regarding the BART strike. The problem is not the workers, who have already suffered $100 million in take-aways in 2009. And many face a loss in income under the agreement proposed by management.

BART workers have not had a negotiated pay increase since 2009, and have already agreed to start paying for more their pensions in this round of negotiations.

What bothers me is the way that many people seem to begrudge the workers their pay and benefits, asking, "why should they earn decent pay and have health and retirement benefits?" rather than asking why they themselves don't have that level of compensation.

Unions are effective at getting their members a decent standard of living. Without unions, there wouldn't be weekends, eight-hour days, overtime pay and health and safety laws.

Additionally, nonunion workers benefit from the presence of strong unions, because competition for workers leads even nonunion employers to better compensate workers to avoid losing them to unionized firms.

I am a daily BART rider, so I am not unaware of the inconvenience this labor dispute is causing. But it matters to me that people to have a decent standard of living, so I support the right of the workers to strike and I hope they get what they are seeking from the negotiations.

Shanthi Gonzales

Oakland

The public should be ashamed of its pay

Much ink was spilled in the July 28 article on the ongoing BART negotiation to reinforce the notion that BART workers are greedy for holding on to their demands. For example, "highest paycheck" numbers are used, even though they are not meaningful if they are outliers. Similarly, "average" pay is cited, when we don't know if that means mean or median, or what the range is. The point of comparing BART pay to that of other government agencies seems to be to shame the union, as it sheds no light on the reason for the negotiation, which is the distribution of revenues within the BART system.

Instead, the comparison should shame us for underpaying our public servants, especially those, like teachers, who work in school districts.

Baby Djojonegoro

Oakland

Bay Area on same path as Detroit

Much has been said about the BART situation and the excess enjoyed by their employees when compared to the rest of the work force. We all know that these are simply greedy individuals who couldn't care less about their passengers or community that supports them.

To continue on as before with these negotiations with public service employees will simply accelerate the deteriorations of the Bay Area into another Detroit.

My solution is a simple one. We have a large well-trained, intelligent and dedicated pool of workers who are increasingly without jobs. They are the returning veterans who have served their country and through no fault of their own cannot find a decent job.

They have proved that they are trainable, dedicated and prepared to learn new skills.

So let's dump the BART union employees and hire and train vets to do this job in a nonunion environment, which will, I am sure, benefit the Bay Area and create a motivated and reliable work force.

Veterans are motivated and have many skills; most are computer literate and, if you can drive or maintain a tank or a helicopter or a missile, I am sure it would be easy to train these veterans to do a good job of all that the BART employees do badly and we would then have BART be the service it was meant to be as opposed to the feather bed home for the lazy and greedy it has become.

John McNeill

Walnut Creek

No justification for higher pay, benefits

I have not heard any justification, either from the BART unions or management, to support the need for exorbitant raises and benefits. Please tell me why, as a taxpayer, I am supposed to pay for their retirement while I'm paying for mine? Why my tax dollars are paying for their medical insurance, when my own is costing me $425 a month? Why are my raises based on merit, and theirs are "expected"?

Why am I not hearing from these people justifying their demands? I can tell you why, because there is no justification. I have house payments to make too, but I can't go to my employer and demand higher wages to make sure that I can take care of my obligations. Instead, I budget accordingly and live within my means, which I can guarantee are less than the average BART worker.

Lora Condon

Castro Valley