Oct. 19, 2014
San Jose, CA
“SFGate” (http://www.sfgate.com/) is the largest online news source for the San Francisco Bay area and its front page of October 18 made clear where the editors stood on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) strike which began at 12:01am Friday, October 18. The top headline was “BART union on strike”—not “BART management forces workers to strike” or “Despite union concessions, BART management forces strike.”
Just below this were links to articles like “Commuters Angry, Frustrated,” “In transit-first Bay Area, strikes shouldn’t be legal,” and “Angry? Show Us How at Mycommutesucks.”
For the capitalist-controlled media the actual facts around the impasse in the negotiations and the reasons why the transit workers union, the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) called the strike take a back seat to articles on snarled traffic and testimonials from the average commuting Joe or Jane, all of which steers the reader to conclude that the strikers should go back to work and stop inconveniencing commuters.
This ploy has been applied for decades, nay centuries, and, truth be told, has been quite effective. Since commuters rely on BART to get to their abusive, low-paying jobs, jobs that keep them just above the poverty level, any disruption in their ability to go to work means that commuters are faced with loss of income and so become seething caldrons of anger—and it’s all the union’s fault!
Facts are stubborn things, however, and the facts are that union negotiators have already agreed to cuts in both medical insurance and the pension plan. The facts are that the proposed pay increase would only keep up with inflation—meaning it’s no real pay increase at all. The facts are that the union leadership did everything in its power to make concessions to management and so avoid a strike. But for management in this bizarre world of corporate dictatorship, the gloves are off, and one or a dozen concessions from the union only invite more demands from management.
The union finally drew the line when management demanded at the eleventh hour that workers accept a “flexible” work schedule, meaning workers could no longer expect that their work hours from one week would apply to the next. Workers that expected their Sundays off?—no more. Workers that counted on overtime holiday work?—no way! Workers that had long worked the “swing shift”?—gone!
Management also demanded that all pay stubs be online and that all BART supervisor reports be filed online. Being stubborn things, however, the facts are that twenty percent of Americans are not internet connected, including some of the lower paid BART employees. The facts are and that while close to one hundred percent of the upper middle class is internet connected, the number of people not connected creeps above the twenty percent as you go down the socioeconomic ladder. For BART management, however, the idea that their employees would not have internet access is, well, not an idea at all because it is never considered. I mean totally like omg doesn’t like, ya know, everybody have internet??!!
But in the real world there are many that have no internet access in their home. In the real world those without home internet connections must go to public libraries where they wait in a line before they can sit in front of a computer, and once internet-connected they must do their surfing in 60 minutes or they will be cut off.
For the Steve-Jobs-obsessed yuppies of the Bay Area online pay stubs and online supervisor reports are no-brainers because these creatures have no idea how the bottom ninety percent live.
The transit workers, however, know what the average Bay Area yuppie is blind to: BART employees, especially those earning $50,000 a year, cannot afford both to raise a family and own a computer that is internet connected. What the transit workers know is that, while small as a percentage of the workforce, there are over 200 BART workers that do not have internet access and so were forced to ask the union to print out their pay stubs. Management’s demand is really a non-issue: of course the employer, not the union, should print out the pay stubs for those employees that do not have internet access.
In this strike we see all the elements of management’s war on workers: cuts in pensions and health care are supposedly balanced by pay increases which only match inflation and so are not pay increases at all.
Which is why this is an important strike that all workers and progressives and Greens and socialists should support. The Reagan/Bush/Clinton era saw the destruction of unions in the private sector, so now it is war on unions in the public sector; unions like the BART transit workers, the CSU and community college faculty unions, and the Wisconsin public employees unions. If BART management can do this to their employees, other public employee will do the same—unless they are stopped!