Skip to comments.BART Strike Reveals Tech, Transit Worker Divide
Posted on 07/11/2013 12:33:59 PM PDT by nickcarraway
When thousands of BART workers went on strike this week over salaries, benefits, and safety concerns and shut down the San Francisco Bay Areas main public transit system, the news made national headlines.
The strike also laid bare a tricky cultural divide in the Bay Area, between traffic-weary tech workers who drive the local economy, and blue collar transit workers who feel left behind.
A BART worker's base salary is about $60,000 a year. Sounds pretty good, but its less than the $74,341 a family of four needs to get by in the pricey Bay Area, according to a recent study by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, based in Oakland.
BART train operator Eddie Turner, who was picketing earlier this week, said as the local tech industry booms and drives up the cost of living, workers like him, who havent gotten a raise since 2009, should get a boost too.
BART is running a surplus, Turner said. This system works and we are the people who make it work.
But plenty of the people who depend on the BART system to get to work, see things differently.
Richard White is the CEO of a San Francisco tech company called UserVoice. He was on a plane somewhere over Arkansas when he emailed me a recording hed made on his iphone (a surreal feat made possible thanks in large part to Bay Area tech innovations), describing his feelings about the strike.
He called it a fiasco, snarling traffic and wasting hours of dozens of his staff's time. And while he said he had sympathy for BART workers not getting a raise in four years, he didnt have that much sympathy.
One of the guys on our team said he's putting in his two-weeks notice once he found out what he could make working for BART, White said, joking. His solution to address those disgruntled BART workers? Get em back to work, pay them whatever they want, and then figure out how to automate their jobs so this doesn't happen again.
Sarah Lacy, founder of tech news site Pando Daily, which is based in San Francisco, said If I had more friends who were BART drivers, I would probably be very sympathetic to their cause, and if they had more friends who were building companies they would probably realize were not all millionaires, and were actually working pretty hard to build something.
She said the BART strike exacerbated what she sees as a philosophical divide in the Bay Area. People in the tech industry feel like life is a meritocracy. You work really hard, you build something and you create something, which is sort of directly opposite to unions.
But BART worker Kay Wilson, who was on strike this week, said she was doing what made sense for any working person, in a tech job or a transit job -- trying to make a living in an expensive region. "I make no apologies for wanting to go to work, do my job well, and get paid for that," she said.
You cant teach a monkey to be an engineer and design the high tech gadgets or software that generate revenue.
Sorry, no sympathy for people who want high pay for low skill jobs, with one exception. Soldiers, and sailors, some of which have what might be called low skill jobs, serve at risk of great peril or death. They deserve a decent wage and our respect.
“You cant teach a monkey to be an engineer and design the high tech gadgets or software that generate revenue”
They gum up the works and everyone in HR is scared down to their little willies to take action.
Not even close - it's subsidized.
If you want a light rail system there are many that are automated and run on software and not human operators demanding to retire at 50 with a big pension.
(main reason they killed off a thing called Skybus here in the 1970’s....transit unions FREAKED OUT when they learned it did not need an operator)