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Motion: This House supports BART workers’ right to strike

  • Sep 3, 2013 · 7:00 PM
  • Commonwealth Club - Boardroom

The right to strike has been a vital part of the labor movement for over 100 years. Many feel that the right to strike evens the power balance between employers and workers, giving workers the leverage they need to deal with employers as equals, and get fair treatment. Without the right to strike, workers’ living and working conditions would inevitably suffer.

Even though the right to strike is legally protected in most developed countries, exceptions to this right are also common, especially for occupations that provide “essential services.” What actually constitutes “essential services” depends on many factors, but usually applies when withholding the service would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population. As providers of essential services, police, firefighters, and air traffic controllers often don’t have the right to strike. In the US, many states and cities also hold the position that “mass transportation workers” provide essential services and thus ban them from striking.

Currently, BART workers have the right to strike, but should they? Those in favor of keeping this right argue that mass transportation is not even close to being an essential service in the way that police work or firefighting is. Without the threat of a strike, BART management would have too much power at the negotiating table and workers’ demands and grievances would be increasingly ignored.

Others argue that BART workers should not have the right to strike, because BART provides an essential service in the Bay Area and a BART strike would have devastating consequences. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute said lost productivity alone reached $73 million a day in July’s strike, but that this figure would steadily increase each day of a strike, as the region “reels from the loss of its most critical mass transit system.”  Countless individuals, families and businesses would suffer and tax revenue would take a huge hit.

So, what do you think? Should BART workers keep the right to strike? Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate this Motion. Note that there is a $5 fee charged by the Commonwealth club for non-members to the club.

If you are interested in being a moderator for this Motion, just email event organizer -Deborah – and let her know.

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  • patricia u.

    Enjoyed the meet- up. Looking forward to the next one.

    September 5, 2013

  • Jeff G

    As usual a good discussion. I think the yeas were more effective arguers, judging from the reaction of the undecided contingent. I've learned something about how to prepare for a debate: if one feels disappointed in not finding the 'right' argument, one should write down the arguments for the opposing side, and respond to those. Arguments don't exist in intellectual space, they happen between people--which is of course the whole point of having a meetup!

    September 4, 2013

    • Jeff G

      We are debating Syria next time. There will be an exploratory philosophical "workshop" in my group next Monday. Can't think of a better way to prepare than that! Contact me (thru my profile) if you'd like to speak or moderate.

      September 4, 2013

  • Gary E. M.

    Topic was rather thoroughly and robustly discussed; the nays had the best of it. Syria sounds like a barn-burner!

    September 4, 2013

  • Jeff G

    Finally found it: 19% of operating budget for tranportation and system service employees, 57% for labor overall.

    September 4, 2013

  • Marty

    Hi Folks, sorry I can't make it this time, but I hope to see y'all soon. Have fun! Marty

    September 3, 2013

  • Deborah B.

    Given that this month the head of the California Senate Transportation Committee (Sen. Mark DeSaulnier) said he is considering legislation that would permanently take away BART worker's right to strike, the topic is timely. The issues at stake in BART contract negotiations would also make for a good debate. This is not an "either/or" situation. Debates can be about many things, from core ideological principles to mundane details of some regulation.

    August 27, 2013

    • Deborah B.

      There seems to be a misunderstanding that the motions represent the organizers' or event hosts' actual position. That is not necessarily true. The debates always have a "For" the House speaker and an "Against" the House speaker, with often vigorous floor discussions for and against the Motion. We usually word a Motion as a positive statement (This House asserts or supports 'x', as opposed to This House "asserts that 'x' is not the case" or "does not support 'x'"), because then the "against" position doesn't sound convoluted (e.g., "I ask you not to support the House's Motion of not supporting 'x'). Also, the House's Motions often lose the floor vote. We debate for many reasons: to improve public speaking ability, to educate ourselves about the issues, to critically evaluate different positions, to practice civil discourse about sometimes emotionally charged topics without resorting to ad hominem attacks, and to have a good time.

      1 · August 28, 2013

    • Peter

      Jan, you should show up sometime. Yes, we may as well choose to debate Roe vs. Wade. Why don't we? Not because the court's decision is unlikely to be overturned, but because almost everybody has a firm opinion for or against it, and nobody will be swayed by anybody else's arguments. And I don't think you'll find much agreement with your assertion that debating how road work should be administered is more fun than debating whether BART workers should be allowed to go on strike again.

      August 29, 2013

  • Nelly P.

    City and Bart relationship worst than any Civil or Business Contract. Marriage Contract a Simple Divorce and everybody fly free like beautiful Birds. Business Contract a Simpe Disolution + Share Rights and Responsibilities then close business doors and throw the Business Key to some Galaxy passing close to Earth.
    City and Bart just like Tango/Milonga Dance where no one but two lead the dance and We the spectators just need to wait and ask, "where their next step will lead them to.

    August 28, 2013

  • Jeff G

    Speaking against labor rights the day after Labor Day...another brilliant tactic, Jeff!

    August 28, 2013

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