Phil Matier: Plenty Willing To Work For Current BART Wages

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — While BART’s contract dispute continues, some Bay Area residents are thinking that they would like to work at the transit agency for the wages that are paid now. Those jobs, however, are hard to come by.

If you look at the job application pool and the acceptance rate, there is a better chance of being accepted to Harvard than you do getting a job at BART.

Overall, BART gets 20,473 job applications annually for an average of 177 job openings. That’s about a 1-in-100 chance of being hired. Compare that with Harvard, which accepts 6 percent of applicants.

According to BART, the agency receives 2,500 to 3,000 applicants every time it advertises for new train operators and station agents. One hiring round a couple of years back drew so many applications that the computerized intake system overloaded.

The rail system’s drivers and station agents make up to $63,591 a year, not including pension and health care, and janitors earn an average of $51,846. This is why many in the public who are looking at this latest labor spat are saying to themselves: “What up with that? I’d like that job.”

While there other jobs, like at the grocery chain Safeway, that are unionized and pay reasonably well, it’s hard to find jobs in which there is the combination of pay, benefits and longevity—guarantees provided by working for BART. Once you’re in, you’re in.

The wages at Safeway, for instance, are nowhere near the level of BART’s, which is why there’s an element of sympathy when their union members walk out.

Even BART’s unions will privately admit that this is their toughest sell because the public saw what the wages that their members are earning—despite the fact that they’ve had five years of voluntary take backs to try to help the agency out.

People are calling up BART’s Board of Directors—the elected officials that represent the Bay Area counties—and telling them: “Look, if they don’t they don’t want the jobs, I got a kid that wants them so get rid of them and hire somebody else.”

On Tuesday night, about 300 of the transit agency’s workers and supporters rallied and marched through Downtown Oakland with some in the crowd calling for an immediate shutdown.

Some yelled “Shut them down now!” and similar chants repeatedly over speeches from union officials. But Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 said the transit workers remain united.

“We are not going to leave anyone behind. We are going to insure that our members get a fair contract and we are going to ensure that the riders have a safe riding environment,” she said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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