So it's come down to this: BART workers want to run the show. They want to be their own managers. They want to preserve arcane work rules that dearly cost the rail system.
And on Thursday afternoon, they announced they were planning to strike Friday morning, walk away from a generous salary increase and leave Bay Area commuters stranded in order to maintain the status quo.
It's unacceptable. BART directors must stand firm.
If the region's primary commuter rail system is to be financially preserved for current and future generations, it must operate efficiently with reasonable work rules. Managers, not the unions, must manage the system.
Currently, train operators often put in no more than 41/2 hours a day while collecting eight hours of pay. Track maintenance workers waste time rebidding their assignments on a daily basis, enabling senior members to work one site one day and leaving it to others to finish jobs the next.
Employees who have collected sick leave during their regular work weeks can come back on weekends and earn overtime pay rates filling in for others. Someone spends salaried time handing out paycheck stubs to workers even though they collect their pay through direct deposit.
It's all a product of decades of tradition and work rules that cannot be changed without the unions' blessings. In any private sector company, this would never be tolerated. Why should we, the taxpayers and riders, fund this wastefulness at BART?
It's time for this to end. It's time to run the system efficiently using 21st century technology. Fares are already too high. BART officials are planning to seek new tax hikes in the future to fund much-needed capital improvements, to repair and replace aging equipment.
Before we pay more, we must see more efficiency at BART. That means employees need to get on board, to cooperate with efforts to get a reasonable bang for the buck, and to stop trying to suck money out of the system, without providing an equal amount of benefit to taxpayers and riders.
BART workers are well-paid, and, under the offers on the table, they would have been very well paid. They receive generous benefits and pay little for them. For months now, we've listened to their unreasonable financial demands, and we've watched the BART board offer them way too much of our money.
All along, it was clear that work rules had to change as part of the package. That was the deal. Everyone knew that. But suddenly on Thursday, in announcing the Friday morning strike, union leaders feigned surprise.
We've seen enough. We've given enough. We've had enough.