Community Organizing & the BART Strike


These words were one of the slogans of the BART/city workers on strike on July 1st, 2013…. I’m sure those are the words that commuters thought on Monday when the entire BART system was completely shut down.

What we as commuters might think as a headache to our daily commute doesn’t speak to the headache not settling this dispute between BART employees and its administrators will wreak upon not only the employees but to our communities reliant on BART.

Through my internship with WEAP (the Women’s Economic Agenda Project)–an Oakland based non-profit working on issues of economic human rights–I was able to participate in the strike that took place on July 1st.  I’d like to take the events that occurred that day to show how much of a headache it all was and will be if we do not take action as a community.

The strike caused an immediate inconvenience. But, there is a bigger consequence than having to suffer through atrocious traffic.

In its coverage, I have noticed that these union workers are depicted as greedy and asking for more than their fair share. Union jobs were once lauded. Now, these workers are treated as if they’re asking for too much for negotiating. As if there is a scarcity of some sort & that these workers are looking to exploit those limited resources. I for one, think its unfair to paint our neighbors in our community in such light. Wage increases are a part of a series of demands that BART employees are asking in order to better our community. In truth, I think this strike is able to shed light to the lack of MINIMAL care that is given to both workers and the community at large on the BART system.

Here’s some statistics provided by ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union) Local 192.

  • BART reported 2,446 assaults and crimes at just 5 of 44 stations in the last 3 years
  • BART cut operations staff by 8% despite record ridership & fare increases
  • Assaults on BART workers have quadrupled in recent years, and at-work injuries are up 43%

When we examine the strike piece by piece. It seems very demanding of workers when certain sources state that the avg BART worker earns 70K/year (

By dividing the issue, I believe that it divides the community:
 BART/city employees vs. the community

This, however, doesn’t illustrate the collective damage that BART administration has inflicted upon our community. Cuts mean riders wait longer for service at night and in high-risk areas. There is a call to eliminate a worker safety committee and safety inspectors. AC transit has proposed to replace Sheriffs with untrained, unaccountable private security guards. All of this effects us ALL. 

One of the most noticeable things at the action on July 1st was the amount of support from local organizations that came out to speak out on the strike. EBHO (East Bay Housing Org) & CJJC (Causa Justa: Just Cause) are both housing rights organizations. ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) & Oakland Education Association from the educational sector came out in support of BART/city workers. The turn out of these diverse community organizations goes to show community organizing at its finest.

My final words (for now) on this topic is that: We can’t let perception further divide our community and pit us against one another. I know this may have ruined the commute for the 200,000 that rely on BART on a daily basis, but not having a secure environment for any workers is a communal issue that will affects us all as a whole. But like any struggle, it can be fought & overcome together. ImageImage