On Oct. 18, workers in the Bay Area Rapid Tranist system (BART) in northern California went on strike, protesting managements attacks on wages and benefits as well as unsafe conditions for workers and riders alike. ANSWER San Franisco is actively mobilizing support for the striking workers. Below is a statement being circulated by ANSWER activists throughout the Bay Area.
It should now be clear to all that BART management deliberately provoked the strike and is trying to blame it on the workers. Behind the BART board stands the Bay Area Council, made up of the biggest banks and corporations in the area. They and the corporate media are waging a vicious propaganda campaign against the 2,400 unionized BART workers who keep the system running. The BART board has been working hard – not to reach a contract settlement, but instead to convince the public that BART workers are overpaid. They are trying to pit BART riders against BART workers, while the rich, the 1%, get even richer. It’s a classic divide & conquer tactic.
Here are some facts, as opposed to the BART’s PR lies:
• After an agreement was reached between the BART bosses and unions on the main economic issues -- wages, pensions, health benefits -- BART management at the last minute demanded new concessions from the unions on working conditions. The unions offered to take issues to arbitration, but the BART board refused, making it clear that they wanted a strike.
• BART workers aren’t “overpaid.” Full-time BART union workers make a base pay of $52-62,000 based on seniority. A 2011 report showed that a family of four in the Bay Area needed $74,341 just to get by. That was up from $62,517 for a family of four in 2008. And it keeps going up.
From 2008 to 2011, the cost of basic needs – rent, food, health care, childcare, transportation and taxes – went up 18.9% in the Bay Area. But from 2009-13, BART workers received no wage increase. That doesn’t mean that BART workers stood still economically – they went backwards due to inflation, losing more than 10% in real wages.
• The BART general manager makes over $320,000/year, and the anti-union negotiator the BART board hired just to negotiate this contract is being paid $399,000.
• The BART bosses have tried to turn the public against the BART workers by saying that the workers “only” have to contribute $90/month for health care. Health care should be a right for all. Our enemy is not BART workers, it’s the giant insurance companies and the health-industrial corporations who are making billions in profits.
• Safety for the public and BART workers is a major issue. Over the past three years, 2,400 serious crimes have been committed, including more than 1,000 physical attacks on riders and 100 on BART workers at just five stations. Workers have been killed and injured due to unsafe working conditions and understaffing.
No one should be taken in by the anti-union campaign designed to pit workers against each other. It is part of the corporate-sponsored “race to the bottom,” the driving down of real wages and benefits across the country for the sake of ever-greater profits for the super-rich. Since 2009, 95 percent of all new wealth has gone to the top 1 percent. If the BART workers win decent wages and benefits, it will be a victory for all working people. Support the BART workers!