As drama continues to build around BART contract negotiations, Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) is pushing legislation forward that would make a BART strike illegal while Orinda City Councilman Steve Glazer works to gather support locally.
“BART is an essential public service,” Glazer said. “When it is shut down, it affects the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, many businesses and our regional economy.”
Kevin Brown, western regional communications coordinator for AFSCME, said the union is concerned about the possible passage of the bill, known as Senate Bill 423.
“It’s definitely something we’re worried about, because potentially it takes away our collective bargaining rights,” Brown said.
Glazer is circulating an online petition in favor of the legislation that he says has garnered “thousands of signatures.”
The petition reads, in part, “A BART strike will cripple our economy, hurt workers getting to their jobs, limit access to schools and health care, and damage our environment.”
On Friday afternoon, Glazer’s office released some of the comments on his petition, which ran the gamut from complaints about inconvenience, to a charge that workers are paid too much to justify a strike.
“I do not drive a car, and the BART is my only option to get to work,” said one signatory to the petition whom Glazer’s website identified only as Tracy from Oakland. “I feel held hostage.”
Last month Huff introduced SB 423, which would “compel BART unions to honor the no-strike clause in their existing contract.”
However, that contract expired in July. Brown, the AFSCME union spokesperson, said the clause is irrelevant during contract negotiations because it technically no longer exists.
The clause in the expired contract stated:
NO STRIKES AND NO LOCKOUTS; A. It is the intent of the District and the Unions to assure uninterrupted transit service to the public during the life of this Agreement. Accordingly, No employee or Unions signatory hereto shall engage in, cause or encourage any strike, slowdown, picketing, concerted refusal to work, or other interruption of the District’s operations for the duration of this Agreement as a result of any labor dispute…
A similar bill exists in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, according to Glazer. He contended that the bills faced just as much opposition in those cities as it does in the Bay Area.
Glazer said he uses BART a couple times a week to attend meetings, and the public’s frustration is something he feels personally.
“When unions and management cannot agree, the consequence should not be thrust upon so many people in our overall economy,” Glazer said.
The proposal for the Senate bill came in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown from Senate and Assembly Republicans last month that urged Brown to call an emergency session of the legislature.
Gov. Brown has not said whether he supports the bill.
“They’ve demanded that other existing contract provisions must be honored while negotiations continue, like their current salaries and benefits,” Huff said in a press release. “Time is of the essence. With millions of dollars at stake, it’s time for the governor to step up and bring the legislature back to Sacramento to resolve this pending strike before the cooling-off period closes on October 11th.”
This story was first published in Oakland North, a UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism community website covering Oakland.