BART union workers attend a rally on Tuesday. Photo by Yolanda Martinez.

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.

Rigoberto Hernandez

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare...

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    1. I agree that all public transit strike should be illegal. It hurts the economy and also the commuters.

  1. This kind of law potentially has broader implications than just BART. The more unions are crippled like this the easier it is to do to the next one and the next. Regardless of your personal difficulties this week, try to see the larger picture if you can.

  2. This is a time for looking at the big picture. BART workers represent the 99 per cent. Don’t be so ready to endorse the tactics of the 1 per cent, which include ensuring that one more union is weakened by having its ultimate weapon removed. behind the tactics of the 1 per cent The Bay Area has a proud tradition honoring collective bargaining

  3. This is a time for looking at the big picture. BART workers represent the 99 per cent, which is parts of virtually every one of you reading this piece. Don’t be so ready to endorse the tactics of the 1 per cent and their minions in Sacramento, which include ensuring that one more union and its workers are weakened by having their ultimate weapon removed. The Bay Area has a proud tradition of honoring collective bargaining. A no-strike law would be one more severe blow to workers in the ongoing struggle of labor and capital.

  4. The BART workers are fortunate to have jobs, especially jobs that pay $60K per year! There are many people out of work who would be happy to take a job for minimum wage. These workers should be grateful they have jobs. Let’s train people that are happy to work for less pay and no benefits to drive the trains. It’s 2013, unions are a thing of the past.

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