ASUC Senate committee to consider bill supporting BART workers

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In response to the labor dispute that resulted in BART workers unions going on strike, the ASUC Senate introduced a bill Wednesday that supports BART workers while condemning a state Senate bill that could have taken away their right to strike.

The ASUC Senate bill, SB 41, urges the ASUC to support BART labor unions’ strikes and “their fight for a fair contract” with BART management.

Under the proposed state law SB 41 condemns, California Senate Bill 423, BART employees would have to abide by their expired contract, which contains a clause that bars them from striking, until a new one is agreed upon. Now that BART workers and management have come to terms on a new contract, however, the state bill would not affect their right to strike.

“I started seeing that a lot of folks were kind of confused about the BART strike,” said CalSERVE Senator Caitlin Quinn, a co-author of the bill. “Everyone was blaming the BART workers and getting really mad that it was shut down — and for valid reason.”

Quinn said, however, that she thinks most students were blaming the wrong party. In her opinion, the BART workers had no choice but to strike.

According to the bill, BART labor unions agreed to pay cuts in 2009, when BART was suffering a $249 million deficit. The bill states that BART now has a surplus and that because of climbing costs of living and a four-year freeze in salaries, BART employees have essentially endured additional de facto pay cuts.

Late Monday night, the workers unions reached an agreement with BART management, securing workers a 15.4 percent raise over the next four years. BART will also have bulletproof glass installed at 15 station agent booths and allow greater flexibility in scheduling work hours for station agents in an effort to create safer working conditions.

Although the BART strike has ended, Quinn has no plans to change the bill. She believes the ASUC should still support BART workers, regardless of whether they are on strike.

“The action doesn’t need to change at all,” Quinn said. “It’s just supporting their strikes and all the efforts that they’ve done.”

Not all students, however, support the workers. Berkeley College Republicans Secretary Ben Zhang, speaking on his own behalf and not that of his club, said he does not support the BART workers’ strikes.

“The ASUC can express their opinions as much as they want, but I don’t think the majority of people in the school would actively support such a bill,” he said.

SB 41 will go to the ASUC Senate’s external affairs committee Monday. If approved, it can be considered by the senate Wednesday.

Contact Tahmina Achekzai at [email protected].