We've known for more than two weeks that BART management and directors caved on financial issues to settle last month's four-day strike.
Union members voted last week to approve the deals, but BART leaders still refused to release copies of the tentative agreement so that the public, the folks paying the bill, could see it. Finally, on Monday, after we threatened litigation, BART relented.
Now, as we see the full details, rather than just tidbits released by the unions and spin from the transit agency, we fully understand that BART leaders didn't just cave -- they got rolled.
Transit district officials have been saying that the deal would cost the district $67 million over the contract's four years. It's actually significantly more than that, but BART officials used accounting gimmicks and omissions to understate the true price.
They also used misleading numbers to claim that employees will net a 9.4 percent increase over the four years. That counts salary increases offset by increased contributions to pensions and health care. In fact, the net benefit to workers is 11.7 percent.
In exchange, BART officials said that they won key concessions that would allow them to implement technology changes without seeking union blessings. But that's not what the deal actually says. Instead, the changes will be subjected to binding arbitration that will likely require the district to pay employees more.
In sum, this was yet another BART contract negotiation in which directors gave in to the pressures of unions and union-bought state legislators -- agreeing to huge raises in exchange for minimal concessions.
Meanwhile, BART remains horribly inefficient and costly. Its leaders remain stuck in an incremental loop, parroting the line that they can't fix the problems at the transit agency in just one round of negotiations. At the rate they're going, we'll all be dead before the system is reformed.
Sadly, BART management failed to do basic preparation going into this round of bargaining. A key consideration should have been how total compensation -- salaries and benefits -- compared to similar transit workers across the nation. But BART leaders failed to do the most basic compensation survey. It's inexcusable.
These negotiations were especially disappointing because a majority of the public understood that the workers were already among the best-paid in the nation. They realized that the transit system faces billions of dollars of unmet capital needs that it cannot afford without more fare and tax increases. They recognized how the unions were trying to extort more.
But, even with the public behind them, BART leaders were unwilling to hold the line. This was a huge missed opportunity.