BART strike averted for seven days as Brown steps in

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An impending BART strike was averted Sunday night by Gov. Jerry Brown, who issued an extension period of at least seven days so an appointed board could investigate the dispute.

At the request of BART administration, Brown appointed the three-person board, saying in a statement that a strike would “significantly disrupt public transportation services and will endanger the public’s health, safety, and welfare.” State law forbids any strike or lockout while the board finishes its investigation.

The board’s investigation will include the facts of the dispute and the respective positions of the parties but will not contain recommendations. The report will be made available to the public.

”The board is directed to provide me with a written report within the next seven days,” Brown said in the statement. “For the sake of the people of the Bay Area, I urge — in the strongest terms possible — the parties to meet quickly and as long as necessary to get this dispute resolved.”

The planned strike would have been the second this summer, following the expiration of a 30-day temporary agreement after July’s five-day strike. On Thursday, BART unions gave 72-hour notice of a strike that would begin Monday morning if a contract agreement was not reached between BART and BART unions Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555.

In July, negotiations focused on wage increases for BART workers and the ability to pay into their own pensions. The unions have also requested better security to protect themselves from violence on the job and general improvements such as better lighting on the tracks.

BART leaders said they opposed a strike, saying it unnecessarily harmed passengers.

“As we saw in early July, the effect of a public transit strike is a complete disruption of the Bay Area economy,” said BART President Tom Radulovich in a letter to Brown asking for a cooling-off period. “We believe the public should not be deprived of this essential public service unless all alternatives to prevent a work stoppage have been utilized.”

But union leaders, such as Pete Castelli, executive director of SEIU 1021, said that although BART employees and administration share the common goal of avoiding a strike, he is dissatisfied with BART’s management of the negotiations — especially the administration’s choice to hire Thomas Hock, a $400,000 outside consultant.

Hock left negotiations earlier this month to go on vacation and has only recently returned.

Union negotiators were informed of Hock’s availability ahead of negotiations, said BART spokesperson Rick Rice.

“Mr. Hock is an experienced negotiator, and the district has faith that he’ll get us through to a good contract this time,” he said.

Contact Jacob Brown and Madeleine Pauker at [email protected]