Quite predictably, the Bay Area is on the precipice of another disabling BART strike.
Last month a strike of the transit workers lasted for four and a half days. Although it occurred during the July 4 holiday week when many local residents were on vacation or out of town, it tied the area in knots. A strike next week promises to be much more difficult, but sadly we expect it.
The sides remain far apart on critical issues and we can discern little progress toward settlement. In fact, it seems the primary purpose of the negotiating teams is to attend news conferences and call the other side liars. We find it irritating and tiresome.
Yes, we know it is part of the process because the real battle in any strike of public employees is for the hearts, minds and support of the people who pay the bills, the public.
We remain perplexed as to why either side agreed to the one-month truce from the last strike. If they had moved the needle some in their earlier discussions, perhaps we might have understood the need for a productive break. But apparently negotiators had not made much progress.
Be that as it may, they agreed to the truce and so here we are, still battling for the sympathies of the hostages.
Really this is a battle for only a portion of the public. Those with union tendencies are likely to support the union no matter what, while the strong anti-union people want the workers fired and replaced with nonunion workers.
It is that segment of the population between those two extremes who are at play here. BART negotiators hope to make it clear that BART employees are extremely well compensated and that caving to them will be very expensive to the fare-paying public. Meanwhile, the unions want to project the public image that they are just blue-collar, middle-class workers being bullied.
So far, that has been a tough sell. The public has learned that BART workers are already the top-paid transit employees in the state and among the best-paid in the nation. Most earn upper-middle class wages, have free pensions, health care coverage for their entire family for just $92 a month and the same sweet medical insurance deal when they retire after just five years. They work only 371/2 hours a week. They can call in sick during the workweek and then volunteer for overtime shifts on their days off, which exacerbates out-of-control overtime costs.
Those are hardly the conditions of the downtrodden and bullied.
No one wants to see this strike. Our advice to both sides is to zip it, go back to negotiating. We don't want to hear more from you until you have an affordable deal.