Jerry Brown delays BART strike
Governor Jerry Brown has stepped in to prevent a strike of Bay Area Rapid Transit workers at midnight Sunday night, imposing a seven day waiting period and appointing a committee to investigate the dispute and issue a public report. CBS/AP reports:
With an eleventh hour order, Gov. Jerry Brown averted a strike of San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system late Sunday night, easing the minds of hundreds of thousands of anxious commuters.
In the order, Brown named a board of investigators for a seven-day inquiry into the contract dispute that threatened to shut down, beginning Monday, one of the region's major train lines.
Brown's order comes under a law that allows the state's intervention if a strike will significantly disrupt public transportation services and endanger public health.
"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," Brown said in the order.
In a statement, BART spokesman Rick Rice said the transit authority's board president, Tom Radulovich, sent a letter to the governor requesting his intervention and a cooling off period of 60 days. The governor issued an order with considerably less time -- a week.
"The formal impartial fact-finding that accompanies the cooling-off period will help clarify the points of difference between the proposals," the statement said.
Union leaders issued a critical statement after the order, accusing BART management negotiators of stalling until only hours remained before the strike would have begun to provide counterproposals on core pay and benefits.
On the surface, it would appear that Brown is carrying out the wishes of management and has angered the unions. Maybe so, but look at the composition of the "impartial fact-finders." Joe Fitzgerald of The Examiner writes:
Three individuals have been appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to investigate the contract dispute between BART and two unions:
Jacob Appelsmith, chairman: Since 2011 has been senior advisor to the governor and director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Micki Callahan: Director of human resources in San Francisco as of 2007. Previously held various positions at the State Mediation and Conciliation Service (1996-2005).
Robert L. Balgenorth: Former president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (1993-2012) and current president emeritus of the organization.
We shall see where the panel comes out on the sort of settlement needed. They do nto look like management shills to me.
I suspect that Brown saw that his longtime allies the unions were losing the battle for public opinion.
...a poll released Friday night by CBS San Francisco station KPIX-TV found that the public, by a margin of more than 2-to-1, thought BART management had made a better case than the unions.
The disruption caused by the 4 day strike called during Independence Day week in July was such that the public is hostile to the idea of a strike. They also know that BART workers are the best paid transit workers in the area, and perhaps in the nation. Management has effectively communicated this point, as well as the need of the system to invest billions of dollars in improvements, including new rolling stock to replace cars that are forty years old or more. Because no new freeways have been constructed in decades, BART ridership is up, and more capacity is needed, requiring upgrades and more rolling stock. People see this, as well as the general level of diligence among the visible staff.
The underlying issue in this strike is the need for BART workers to pay some of the cost of their pensions (they currently pay nothing) and more of their rapidly-rising health care costs. Many government workers enjoy privileges denied to the vast majority of Americans: low cost health care and secure pensions for life following retirement at an age that allows for two or three decades of paid vacation. Defending those prerogatives is not a winning argument these days.