Janitor Liang Zhao Zhang cleans transit stations in downtown San Francisco, but he really cleans up with his six-figure salary. Last year, the Bay Area Rapid Transit employee earned just over $271,000.
Zhang’s high earnings come to light this week, just days before BART will ask voters to approve Measure RR, a $3.5 billion bond aimed at “relieving congestion” and “improving access.”
As California Policy Center reported in October, there’s reason to believe the bond’s proceeds may be used to increase employee compensation. BART unions won wage increases of 15.4% over four years in 2013 – the same year Zhang’s extraordinarily unusual salary first appeared on the public radar. The most recent union contract locks in another four-year increase in worker wages – 10.8% – beginning mid-2017.
Zhang’s fabulous salary is symbolic of broader problems at BART. The transportation agency’s $3.1 billion unfunded liabilities suggest the system is derailing.
Catrin Thorman is a California Policy Center fall Journalism Fellow. She is a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and a former Teach for America corps member.