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Friday, October 18, 2013
BART bosses respond. What is behind the lies and rhetoric?
As you can see from the video above, we are getting some indication of what the real issues are between BART management and the workers that operate the mass transit system here in the San Francisco Bay Area. As someone who was a rank and file member of the negotiating team in my public sector workplace I know that what matters to the bosses, even public sector ones who are, after all, merely servants of Wall Street, is control of the workplace, in other words, the labor process.
What's clear from the video above is that what matters to the BART management is the business, how the transit system can be a successful business. Yes they are liars, they have to be. The speaker says that BART has no interest in "power games" that they simply want to "modernize the way they do business.", and that they want to "operate more efficiently."
But BART is not a business, it is a public service. I remember some years ago during a public sector strike in France. A US journalist was over there as the strike was taking place and he interviewed a French public sector worker that worked for the Paris Metro. The journalist pointed out that the strike was harmful as the public transit system was not making profit.
"Who cares whether it makes profit" the worker responded, "This is a public service, profit doesn't enter in to it." We can learn a lot from the French
The reporter had no way of responding to this as he saw profit as an integral and inescapable part of life.
So the BART spokesperson in the video above sounds very democratic, "The union members deserve to vote" he says as a means of undermining the union leadership for calling a strike, or "leading" workers off the job as he puts it.
The transit district has to be "financially responsible" he says. Well, what does that mean? It means, BART has to make a profit and the union contract hinders, or is an obstacle to this. Wages must come down which is why they offer bonuses that don't increase base pay. But most importantly, the obstacles to making profits must be eliminated; work rules, safety guarantees, rules that increase a workers control over our life at work must be eliminated.
This mouthpiece of the bosses gives an example. He says that maintenance workers that do inspections cannot, due to contractual limitations, "send information directly from IPads to the computers." They are "required by the contract" he says, "to write hand written notes and hand those to a clerk."
He points out that this is 1950's technology and it "costs money and is inefficient" and is not the way to do business in this day and age. I would not disagree with this.
But I want the workers that read this blog to think about these issues deeply because what this representative of the 1% says is not something workers, or socialists like me for that matter, would disagree with. It depends though, on one's point of view, on ones class position.
The main issues here for a worker is that public services should not be dependent on the profit motive but on social need. And the speaker is correct that the language in the contract is obsolete, that it is much more efficient for a BART inspector to send information directly to a computer. The issue is what is "efficiency"?
Capitalists control the workplace, even a public sector workplace. An increase in efficiency, like the sending of information straight to a computer rather than passing on hand written notes, is a good thing if we, as workers, control the workplace and the labor process but we don't. If we did, such an improvement in efficiency would result in more leisure time, less time at work and more time with our families or doing whatever we want to do, even involving ourselves in the actual management of work
So we must understand that this dispute is political in nature. In the workplace, there are only two major sources of power---the bosses, and the organized workers. This dispute is all about reducing the power of the organized workers and increasing the power of the bosses, money is secondary.
We will never live in a truly democratic society until we control the labor process. The process through which we produce the necessities of life and through which we provide all the means that allow us to live a fruitful and productive one. This means education, transportation, public health, housing, etc.
This is what the BART workers are defending and what we all need to understand.
Victory to the BART workers
No more give backs
Jobs for all
Health care for all
Education not incarceration
For a Bay Area wide strike of all public sector workers and a public sector alliance.
End all predatory wars and occupations, bring the troops home
Production for social, need not corporate greed.