Sunday, June 30, 2013

STRIKE ALERT: SF Rapid Transit Talks Break Down

Josie Mooney, a negotiator for the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said there was "a 95 percent chance" that her union and members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 would strike, after contract talks stalled Saturday, reports the SF Chronicle.

More than 400,000 riders use the Bay Area Rapid Transit service on a daily basis.

The unions want a 5 percent annual raise over the next three years. BART said Saturday that train operators and station agents in the unions average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers also pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.

BART spokesman Rick Rice said the latest proposal offered a 4- to 8 percent salary raise over the next four years, on top of a 1 percent raise employees were scheduled to receive Monday. The transit agency also said it offered to reduce the contribution employees would have to make to their pensions, and lower the costs of health care premiums they would have to pay.

SFC reports that on Friday, the ATU asked California Gov. Jerry Brown to issue a 60-day "cooling off" period if no deal can be reached by Sunday's deadline, but the SEIU and BART officials have urged Brown not to issue such an order.

The governor's office has declined to comment.

BART's last strike lasted six days in 1997.

As this strike develops, it is an opportune time to think about government transportation operations.

With government operating transportation systems and supporting unions, a number of distortions occur that one wouldn't see in a completely free market society.

First, as Murray Rothbard pointed out:
[T]he entire theory of labor unions is deeply flawed. Their view is that the worker somehow "owns" his job, and that therefore it should be illegal for an employer to bid permanent farewell to striking workers. The "ownership of jobs" is of course a clear violation of the property right of the employer to fire or not hire anyone he wants. No one has a "right to a job" in the future; one only has the right to be paid for work contracted and already performed. No one should have the "right" to have his hand in the pocket of his employer forever; that is not a "right" but a systematic theft of other people's property.
The second problem here is the government "ownership" of the BART system. It distorts the property ownership question even further (Since property rights can only apply to private property) and  makes it unclear whether resources are used most efficiently, with regard to both equipment and employees. Only when firms are able to operate in a free market system with free market prices and competition is it clear, by price signals, what should be paid for factors of production and what prices should be charged customers.

The BART situation violates all these basic tenets of a private property society. Perhaps this is a good time to consider turning BART over to the private sector, by means of an auction, with funds gained from a sale turned over to "the people."

1 comment:

  1. Look only about 75% of BART employees have compensation that exceeds $100k a year. that is so unfair to the other 25%