As students with limited affordable transportation options and professors that take the BART for its convenience and speed to get to campus on time, we all have been greatly impacted by the BART strike and its affect on our plans and commute. We, the Foghorn, believe this to be a time of understanding unions and their intentions; as well as maintaining a balanced perspective while critiquing.
As students that come to San Francisco, a city brimming with opportunities for those who can afford the education necessary to be eligible, the BART labor dispute was an inconvenience to us. Yet, as students who should also be aware of prevalent social justice issues in our own communities, we must recognize the considerable wide wealth gap that divides the average Silicon Valley employee and one who maintains BART services.
The BART transports nearly 375,000 commuters along a 104-mile long system on the average weekday. With a halt to this city-funded agency due to wage negotiations, the real impact made on this city will not come from the six-digit income earners that cannot make it to their office, but those “invisible” workers who depend on their meager paycheck and cannot earn it while working from home (i.e. custodians, waiters, etc.).
The Bay Area Council Economic Institute approximated that a day of the BART strike would cost the Bay Area economy $73 million dollars. Yet there is no mention in most media coverage of the strike of this probably being a result of the usually ignored, large number of people in the city that work lower income jobs, just like that of BART employees, not being able to get to their place of work.
A closer look at the unions’ demands shows that their concerns are warranted. Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 have been asking for increased safety measures and a salary that equals some of the risk they expose themselves to whilst working. This past Saturday, two BART employees were killed by an automated train while inspecting the tracks, just one day after the strike began.
The repetitive striking by BART employees is indicative of the unfortunately, disparaging income gap that continues to grow and plague our country. As informed and educated citizens, we must acknowledge that these are individuals demanding the chance to begin bridging this gap.
Tuesday night, BART announced an end to its four-day strike the effect of which was felt by many with a pension, salary and health care settlement that was agreed on by management and the two unions. Even with the reinstatement of the BART service, the topic of working conditions will continue to be negotiated. This is a small victory for not just its union, but for other unions demanding higher wages that give workers the opportunity to save and live comfortably. It is also a step in the effort to fight our country’s income inequality — a feat that will positively affect the lower and middle classes.