Government unions flex muscles

Big labor is threatening to strangle the liberal San Francisco Bay Area in order to protect the principle that government workers should be insulated from the effects of rising medical costs and enjoy generous pensions to which they contribute nothing. Led by the ultra-leftist SEIU, the biggest union representing workers at BART and a progressive movement powerhouse, big labor orchestrated the Bay Area organized left to march and demonstrate at BART headquarters in Oakland Thursday night. Brittny Mejia and Kristin Bender of the Oakland Tribune report:

Minutes after BART union employees held a raucous rally and marched through downtown, union leaders issued a 72-hour notice that they may walk off their jobs at midnight Sunday.

The news came shortly after about 400 BART workers and their supporters, including actor Danny Glover, chanted for union solidarity, equal pay for minorities, women and older workers and an immediate contract.

 The unions are demanding 4 years of 5% pay raises - far above the reported inflation rate - and protecting free pensions and extremely low cost health care benefits. John Wildemth of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:

...most public employees in the Bay Area contribute far more for their medical insurance and pensions than do BART workers, who pay nothing toward their pensions and a flat $92 a month for medical care for workers and their families. (snip)

In the past 12 years, BART's medical insurance costs have risen by 251 percent, from $24.6 million to an estimated $86.4 million next year, while workers' payments have increased from $25 to the current $92, BART officials said.

Pension costs have jumped by 126 percent since 2005, while employees still pay nothing toward the benefits, they added.

BART's plan to boost its workers' share of benefit costs would wipe out the proposed 2 percent annual pay hikes over the next year and leave many employees worse off than they are now, [union spokesman] Castelli countered.

So the unions see themselves losing ground in the final paycheck. What they refuse to acknowledge is that everyone is getting squeezed by health care costs. We all have less money to spend these days because health insurance keeps skyrocketing in cost.  They already have a deal almost nobody else gets, outside of government employees They are already the best-paid transit workers in the Bay Area, and with overtime benefits considered, the average worker receives over $100,000 in compensation. This includes janitors sweeping up the stations and the people who sit in the booths at stations all day, who constitute the most publicly visible staff.

Management has been making its case to the public, which aggravates the unions no end. Thier outrage over getting a the same dewal the rest of us get on health insurance falls a little flat.

Dumping the 200,000 daily BART riders will not only inconvenience the riders, it will gridlock the local freeways, disrupting the lives of millions. Local greenies should be aghast at the increased air pollution all those cars idling on the freeways will generate, but remain inconspicuous on the obligation of unions to protect Mother Gaia.

In other cities like New York and Washington, DC, transit workers may not legally strike. And the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) which operates busses, trolleys and subways in the city itself, are forbidden to strike by the city charter. A new state law would be required in order to legally foreclose a strike, and that has no chance at all in the Democrat-controlled legislature.

It looks like Augsut will be unpleasant for the 6 million plus residents of the Bay Area.

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