Negotiations: My Impressions

*sigh* I remember the previous BART strike. Did I already talk about this? It was 4 years ago, I was working for United at SFO. I recall wondering how I was going to get to work, as I had been riding to and from the airport predominately since the 1:45 drive got long and tiring. Fast forward 4 years and I find myself no longer a paying patron, but a BART employee. So what does this have to do with anything?

First, I was never upset at BART employees. I was more upset with management and the fact they seemed to raise ticket prices on a yearly basis. It was no different than the bridge tolls going up a dollar every year since I lived in the bay area.

With contract negotiations going on this year, I have started reading some of the unofficial BART web sites on the Internet in order to get some reactions, comments and thoughts regarding the situation. Let me say, I am rather astonished at some of the attitudes on both sides. Being a patron for about 3 years I wanted the most economical, reliable transportation to and from work. BART was really the only option for me. Since then the economy has tanked. House prices has tanked. Jobless claims seem to climb on a weekly basis. Overall everything is down, yet my move from United to BART, everything was up.

I came out of a very bad situation at United Airlines, which culminated with 9-11. Things at United were bad years prior to that fateful day. After that day there were furloughs, retirements and an overall reorganization of the airline. Pay and benefits were cut as well, not to mention the company stock taking a huge fall. Over the course of 3 years I lost nearly 35% of my total pay.

It was not until my son was born in 2005 I realized I could no longer make a career, like my father did for 35 years, at United Airlines. I wanted to. I loved airplanes. I loved the job. But I hated the direction the company and it’s once proud principals were heading. I decided I needed a change. The opportunity to make that change came and I seized the day, so to speak.

On the day I was offered the job I immediately received a 30% pay raise for accepting the job. Based on the information provided from the Contra Costa Times and their nicely indexed salaries of all BART employees, my pay has increased another 31% since being hired. Nearly a 61% raise since making a decision to find a better job, with better working conditions and a future to look forward to.

I can understand and relate to the negative comments from many outsiders, looking in at BART. I understand the frustration and resentment of many patrons who are not happy with dirty trains, rules and regulations that are not enforced, high ticket prices and some front line employees who seem to come off with an “I don’t care” type of attitude. Unfortunately, everyone at BART suffers because first impressions do go a long way.

This is my first contract experience at BART. I can say I am comfortable with my yearly salary and benefits, based on where I came from, not the past practice at BART since I don’t know much prior to being hired. I hear employees from a few different unions voicing their displeasure with what management is trying to do or has (or hasn’t) been doing leading up to the July 1 deadline. Now we are 10 days past and still in negotiations.

Hopefully whatever transpires benefits all parties involved from employees to management to those patrons who pay their fares to ride daily. As optimistic as I would like to be, negotiations always seem to be ugly and someone always feels they get screwed. Hopefully it is not the patrons who feel screwed in the end.