California assemblymember proposes bill to end future BART strikes

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A state legislator introduced a bill Monday that would ban BART workers from striking, provided that they are on payroll and their expired contract includes a no-strike clause.

State Assemblymember Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, introduced the proposal to ban BART strikes similar to those in 2013, when negotiations between BART management and labor unions resulted in two strikes that lasted roughly four days. The proposal has not been well received by the unions, which suggested that it was the management’s side of the bargaining table that should be changed.

The 2013 strike followed months of negotiations between BART management and unions after their labor contract expired in July 2013. During the negotiations, BART continued to pay its workers even when the contract expired, according to BART spokesperson Alicia Trost.

According to Baker, this situation allows the workers to go on strike despite the no-strike provision. If management continues to pay the expired contract’s wages and benefits, she said, the workers ought to continue to honor the no-strike provision.

“If you’re going to accept the benefits of BART management after contract is expired, you also have to accept both sides of the contract, including the no-strike provision,” Baker said. “You can’t cherry-pick what part of the contract you want to accept.”

BART’s labor unions have a different perspective on the issue. Pete Castelli, executive director of union SEIU Local 1021, said the proposed bill reignites tensions between management and workers.

“A report published not long ago pointed out a lot of failings in bargaining, and a lot of them are on the management side,” Castelli said. “The workers did not want to strike (in 2013), but they felt BART was pushing them to strike.”

According to a 2014 report released by an independent consultant on the collective bargaining process in 2013, mistrust permeated both sides of the 2013 negotiations, and neither party wanted more strikes in the future.

Other union leaders agreed with Castelli’s view. Chris Finn, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, also pointed to the report as explaining why banning strikes will not fix labor-management relations.

“The report says that BART is one of the five worst cases (the consultant) has seen in the history of her labor-management involvement,” Finn said. “So I don’t think this provides the real fix. What we need to do is to fix the underlying issue.”

Baker noted that the bill would not take away the right to strike — it would only revoke that right when BART workers are still paid under the terms of a contract that prohibits strikes.

“They have already agreed not to strike,” Baker said. “We’re just holding them to that agreement.”

Despite potential opposition from a Democratic-controlled Assembly, Baker said she is optimistic that her bill will enter the hearing process.

Contact Frank Yu at [email protected].