Timely PR Advice for BART Workers

A commuter at the BART Fremont station (Photo from iStockPhoto.com)

A commuter at the BART Fremont station (Photo from iStockPhoto.com)

I’m not taking sides in the fight between BART management and the BART union. As some of you know BART is a transit system that’s really popular here in the Bay Area. It gets people to work, school, events, shopping and other places. When I last took it, I was going to Golden State Warriors basketball game in Oakland. The Warriors won. It was a great night.

What’s happening now is that the BART union workers are threatening to strike unless they get an agreement for more pay and better benefits.

However, I’d say management is winning the publicity war so BART workers, step up your PR game a bit to get your point across better.

According to today’s San Jose Mercury News, BART union members argue that they are due a pay raise and haven’t had one in a few years. BART is doing well financially so they should be rewarded.

Management’s take on this is that the average blue collar BART worker makes $76,000. That’s a nice salary for someone who doesn’t need a college degree to get a job, even in the expensive Bay Area. So the PR team for management gets more points for getting this point across and in most stories I’ve heard or read about this issue.

I read an Op-Ed by a teacher a month ago who uses BART who made a lot less than the BART workers who might strike. She made at least $30,000 less than $76,000. She was furious that they were complaining about the high salary considering she had to get an undergraduate degree, master’s degree to do her job and, “Shame on them for complaining.” Her letter said she needed BART to get to work so, “Striking is bad,”

But then again, two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because teachers are underpaid, doesn’t meet hard working BART workers need to be underpaid.  When we took BART to the Warriors game, I noticed the workers did an awesome job so kudos to them.

I also heard a radio interview yesterday. A news talk show host was interviewing a BART worker who was fighting for better pay and benefits.  The worker who had a ton of time on air to say his peace could not articulate why they deserved more.

I was hoping to at least hear, “There’s a problem with the health insurance. Here’s what it is!” but no, all he did was complain endlessly about how goofy it was for someone PR person to make up that it costs $70 million when they walked off the job about a month ago.

He said, “That can’t be right. Who makes that stuff up?” Seriously, this is the union defense on a popular radio show? Most intelligent people can understand how much money a transit strike could cost the economy. I don’t need proof of the $70 million. In fact I could easily make a case that it’s higher.

I was really just trying to understand what’s so bad about the current package but instead they insulted people in my profession. Epic message fail on his part and waste of an interview to help the union’s case.

One reason BART management is doing better in the publicity wars is because of its great PR team.

So my advice to the soon-to-strike BART Workers is this.

Clearly articulate what is so unfair about your benefits package. Be very specific so that people understand with some proof and not just, “We need more.”

Make the message very short and add a number to it so that every media outlet picks it up, even in the shortest of stories. 

The net is quantify in a compelling manner to fight the “$76k for a blue collar worker” argument.

By the way, thanks for the nice ride to the Warriors game. BART rocks and keep up the great work.

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, based in Saratoga, CA. She does PR for high tech start-ups headquartered in California and Europe and is also the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators, a non-profit that promotes ethical and quality communications.

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