Cleaning Up: BART Janitor Cleans Up With $235,000 In One Year

Liang Zhao Zhang, a janitor for Bay Area Rapid Transit in downtown San Francisco, promised to clean up and he did just that. Transparent California, a nonprofit organization, released records that show that the janitor earned four times more than his base pay last year in overtime — bringing his earnings to $235,000 in 2015.


With benefits, the total cost of employment was more than $270,000. Over three years, Zhang received a combined $682,000 in pay and benefits. In just three years.

Cecille Isidro, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union, insists that people should not forget that the work backbreaking and “involves cleaning up after the hundreds of thousands of riders that rely on BART to get to and from work every day.”

Ok, I get that. But that still does not justify this salary. I do not blame this worker who clearly worked hard to earn as much money as possible. Someone however at Bart management needs to be looking for a new job.

42 thoughts on “Cleaning Up: BART Janitor Cleans Up With $235,000 In One Year”

  1. There is a transcript of an interview with BART general manager Crunican available from the BART website. On the basis of that, the janitor story is far from a scandal.

  2. Sub Tract re: “Overtime doesn’t start after 40 hours a week; it starts after 8 hours each and every day.”

    Does this mean nurses get OT as they generally work 12 hours shifts…

    1. Going back to the healthcare thing Autumn, I don’t understand the long shifts for that kind of work. Human performance drops after a period of time, and maybe that is one reason why hospitals are such a deadly place to be. Nurses definitely have to work for their money.

      1. slohrss29

        You are all about the private sector — and I understand that many government workers take advantage – but again, I don’t think the private sector is the answer — maybe a hybrid model. What we need is careful auditing of all personnel – and government workers who are not performing efficiently should be terminated.

        Hospitals prefer the two shift model as it saves them money – free market at work there. I’m sure they have done cost analysis that shows if mistakes happen a lawsuit is still cheaper than hiring more nurses salary + benefits.

        A three shift model of 8 hour shifts for nurses would make more sense in terms of maximum efficiency and it would help the nurses as well as the patients. And many nurses after they have signed off from their 12 hour shift still work putting in the data and reports into the system.

        1. I know, there are no easy answers. I find it interesting that those cancer centers are making a killing (well, good profits, I mean–sorry for the poor choice there), as they do not accept medicare/medicaid last I heard. My personal feeling is, and I woudn’t base an argument on it because it is just that, that the people are just not what they used to be. There was another time when personal responsibility–and caring–seemed to be more the hallmark of the people. For a government system to work, you have to have people that are attached to an ideal, otherwise, it’s just another pile of opportunists. At least in the free market, without price protections, opportunists frequently get washed over. That said, if they dropped a lot of regulations overnight, I certainly wouldn’t want to seek treatment just then… Maybe if these people reported to congress every year in front of a guillotine, that would clean things up in a hurry. Or maybe have the overly-bureaucratic Vogons administer it.??? Sorry, Vogons seem to be all I have…

  3. All seem to miss the real point: This is in the People’s Republic of California. Overtime doesn’t start after 40 hours a week; it starts after 8 hours each and every day. The problem, if it is a problem, is with the state legislators who write California’s labor laws and the Governor who approves them. Also, as others have noted, paying overtime is cheaper than hiring more employees after factoring in all associated costs. It’s likely this is actually a win-win-win-win for the employee, BART, riders, and taxpayers. Therefore, it’s probably not a real problem–and that leads us back to ambulance chasers who try to make it one or bloggers with space to fill.

    1. I’m a taxpayer and a cheapskate. I skate hard being cheap. Don’t see how it’s a win-win for the taxpayer, once again, looking at the compensation chart above and realizing that probably doesn’t mesh with most of what private industry can pay. Government is too big a part of the economy. In my depressed location, if you are not in healthcare, legal, financial, or a part of government, there is not a lot to be made anymore. I (probably not rightfully so, but just out of being an aging human) resent what the government employees make at the expense of we, the taxpayers. And when did this civil service union thing start? I’m so-so on unions, but definitely not when it involves government. Taxpayer is the loser in that case. Job not good enough, fight it out in the private sector.

      1. As I read it, BART is a government agency and funded, in part, by taxpayers. If BART’s expenses go up, it’s likely to cost taxpayers more. Therefore, reduced expenses is a win for taxpayers.

      2. Actually, when it comes to government, management is the problem, not the unions. The unions can only make sure the management honors a negotiated contract. It is management that has the discretion to create new position descriptions so that secretaries become “administrative assistants” at 50% higher pay. Believe me, in my government agency, attorneys with 7 years of higher education and tens of thousands in student loans do not appreciate that the woman who orders supplies makes 25% more than they do, all because the department head likes her and promoted her to one of those vague positions. This happens all the time. It is management that creates these bogus jobs for their friends. Employees have no power to do that.

  4. I doubt anyone would deny this employee the right to wrestle the maximum compensation possible from his employer. That should be expected. What I don’t accept is a compensation plan that isn’t tied to realistic budget considerations. Where’s the ceiling on overhead? What measures are BART’s administrators managing to? How many people are collecting unemployment, welfare and food stamps on top of paying this hard-working man nearly $300k a year? What’s the bonus structure for management tied to?

    The question isn’t whether this man deserves the pay, the question is what incentive is there for management to be efficient with taxpayer dollars?

    1. The problem is that this is more efficient as long as he is working the hours paid.

  5. There are 95 million Americans that are not working. And BART can’t find one or two more employees to keep expenses down for taxpayers? Replace the BART director with a Trump, and let the firing begin!

  6. Just a GD Minute. A Paul Harvey summation is missing here. This person is earning money the old fashioned way, it’s worked for. What is the driving force? Are there family expenses, kids or other family going to college, medical bills, living in expensive SF “Dumps”, trying to get other family to the States?

    So what if the person reaped a large amount. I was the traffic manager for Gallo Wine Bay Cities Sales Company and had 45 listed drivers and at times had 90-100 trucks out covering East Sacramento to Monterey to Healdsburg as well as all of SF and Oakland. Back in the day, I had real shortages in surge drivers and others would take additional routes and work weekends. Given inflation, their pay would rival the janitor’s. My drivers, on average, earned significantly more than I. But, they did a job that I couldn’t do and didn’t want.

    on top of all this, there is the training and need for reliability. This person was a go-to-guy.

    And leave the supervisors alone. The issue, if there is one, should be with the municipal leadership who set the guidelines or negotiated a contract.

    How many on this thread are jealous? Better yet how many would (could?} put in the hours and labor even for this pay? BTW overtime on average is cheaper than straight time. Benefit accrual stops at defined limits.

    1. Renegade – usually your pension is based on the gross on the check, not your base pay. This guy is going to retire with a tidy sum, assuming he doesn’t have a heart attack.

      1. Overtime is excluded from compensation for purposes of determining the CALPERS pension.

  7. Let’s not get carried away with the term back breaking work. He was union after all.

  8. In most cases it is cheaper to pay existing employees, unionized, benefits fixed, one retirement plan, etc overtime than to take on another employee and doubling all the associated expenses. This is good management in the end. Most institutions must have a couple million plus in the bank before they hire someone extra.

    Turley you either missed it completely here or are just throwing a bone to your blog.

  9. Yeah, the rare person who is willing to spend long hours doing back-breaking unpleasant work should only get a low salary. Those who sit in a cushy corner office drinking martinis strutting around in their three piece suits doing things that anyone could do, are the only ones who should be paid well.

    1. Doglover – I do know from articles in NY papers that some school janitors base pay is over $150k.

  10. The emphasis placed upon this employee is misguided. He simply fulfilled various vacant overtime shots available. He in fact should have not been mentioned. She simply signed up for whatever overtime was available. I believe he shouldn’t have been mentioned at all. He is simply trying to earn a good wage to support him and his family. The issue is with management for allowing the need for overtime that could be satisfied with better scheduling–which would be better from a cost point of view. Unless there was some kind of fraud committed, he did nothing wrong. The problem is with the system that would allow such overtime to be available where if they simply hired more employees, the overtime would decrease markedly.

    This man is NOT a pariah, he did his best to earn a living. Don’t blame him for taking shifts that others were not willing to fulfill.

    1. Darren – assuming he is not sleeping with his boss, the onus is management. They are the screwups. I used to take as much overtime as I could get when I was working hourly.

  11. When the guy is making that kind of money 3 years in a row, it is time to hire a second guy. Unless this one is going to bed with his boss.

  12. This hard working guy gets a big thumbs up from me! But like TIN pointed out, a supervisor somewhere isn’t doing his job very well. But what the heck, it ain’t his money!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  13. I’m wondering how he got in that many hours in. If $235,000 is four times his base pay, he makes almost $60,000 per year for working 40 hours per week. He’ll get time and a half for overtime, so he needs to work an additional 20 hours per week to double his income. At that point, overtime goes from time and a half to double time, which means he can work an additional 20 hours, for a total of 80 hours per week, to reach $235,000.

    I don’t blame the guy, it’s the only way he’ll ever be able to buy a house in the S.F. Bay Area, but it doesn’t make sense for the subway system to allow double-time pay for janitorial work.

    1. Turley

      This is the height of hypocrisy. The guy worked overtime. Bums like A-Rod get 25mil year after year, do steroids setting a bad example for kids, and get a slap on the wrist. You, more than anyone, should be aware of the lawyers whose core education is in billing. Scumbag lawyers rope people into paying retainers to ‘find out’ when they already know the answer. Interview a dozen lawyers and you might find one honest one. This janitor should be applauded for making a decent wage by working his *ss off. The compensation included benefits etc. If you have any minerals at all spend some time surfacing the real inequities in how America recompenses its citizens for their work.

      1. Issac: “This is the height of hypocrisy. The guy worked overtime. Bums like A-Rod get 25mil year after year, do steroids setting a bad example for kids, and get a slap on the wrist. You, more than anyone, should be aware of the lawyers whose core education is in billing.” I tend to agree with the first two sentences. Obviously, with the last one, you don’t know what you’re talking about or you’re as much a hypocrite as those you condemn.

        I would venture that most lawyers worth their salt would never have completed law school had they known how much of a business pitch to the ever-illusive client the law has become. That side of it is appalling, but the actually height of hypocrisy is believing nearly any business under the capitalist model is anything other than looking down on and screwing your neighbor for profit.

        Take the primary requirement of profit along with remote public shareholders out of the equation and the bargained-for exchange might be a bit kinder to us all, not just the wealthy and the pinheads who adore them.

        1. Steve, hear hear! re: “Take the primary requirement of profit along with remote public shareholders out of the equation and the bargained-for exchange might be a bit kinder to us all, not just the wealthy and the pinheads who adore them.”

          To be sure there are unscrupulous lawyers out there who milk their clients, but one finds that in any profession – white and blue collar. I have had good experiences with local attorneys. One even refused payment for writing two letters for me, but luckily he would accept a gift certificate at a favorite local restaurant. Painting individuals with a broad brush is ignorant IMO

        2. Steve

          I take it you are a lawyer. I have worked in the private sector, my own businesses, as a property developer, artist, and architect. In all these experiences I have had to work either directly or indirectly with lawyers. The opportunities that I have had to receive an honest answer in the initial ‘free’ interview has averaged a little better than one out of ten times. I have also worked with many other professions and found that although each profession contains some of the same unscrupulous characters, they are by far in the minority and much easier to ferret out. Lawyers, for the most part, provide a service to those who can’t take the time to deal with stuff themselves and/or those who are intimidated by the legal system. Follow the jokes. The next most despicable profession is the General Contractor. But that’s another story.

  14. In Massachusetts the state police regularly clean up by working overtime and traffic details, in some cases with very high resulting incomes. The blue collar dream !

  15. Why would anyone want a university education when they have BART on the one hand and Frank Zappa’s Education System on the other as a realistic guideline.

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