The San Francisco Bay Area may be plunged again into commuter gridlock, as BART and its workers' unions have failed to reach an agreement. The trains will run Monday and Tuesday as negotiations continue, but on Wednesday there could be a repeat of the walk-off that caused headaches, traffic congestion, lost revenue and employee absenteeism two months ago.
What is behind the threats of strike? Let's take a closer look. The unions are pushing for higher salaries, better health insurance and sweeter pension plans. But how much better can it get? According to SFGate, a typical station agent or train operator is paid $63,000 a year, not including overtime. That translates to more than three times the average hourly rate of comparable jobs for airline station agents and more than $10 higher per hour than comparable jobs in New York.
Is it really worth the brinksmanship with BART and potential of raising costs for the public for the unions to further pad these fat numbers? The unions think so, but the more than 400,000 commuters who ride BART trains on weekdays are not so sure. In a KPIX 5 / SurveyUSA poll of 550 Bay Area adults, 76% said they oppose BART workers going on strike--most who responded were strongly opposed.
Making the unions' demands even more perplexing, all BART employees (even nonunion staff) make no contributions to their pension plans and pay a flat rate of $92 a month for their health insurance, regardless of the plan or number of people covered, according to SFGate. This is an incredibly sweet deal, given the fact that the average monthly bronze plan for Obamacare costs about $350/month in California and pensions have all but disappeared for most of us.