Thursday, August 13, 2009

BART Strike When the Bay Bridge Is Closed?

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 10:35 AM

The threat of a crippling BART strike over Labor Day Weekend when the Bay Bridge is closed for reconstruction is growing each day as the transit agency's main union steadfastly refuses to agree to make concessions. BART management could impose its latest contract offer on the train operators and station agents union as early as today, which could prompt the union to go on strike. If the union does strike, BART's other unions say they won't cross the picket line, even though they approved new labor contracts - with concessions - during recent days. And there is no doubt that the train operators and station agents union can exert tremendous pressure by striking from September 3 to September 8 when the bridge is closed to all traffic.

If there is a BART strike at that time, then state officials likely will intervene to achieve a settlement. Otherwise, CalTrans would have to delay the bridge closure likely until next year, thereby further delaying the replacement of the seismically unsafe bridge -- and forcing more huge cost overruns on a project that is already billions over budget. The governor has said he won't intervene in the BART dispute, but it will be politically untenable for both BART and the bridge to be out of commission for nearly five days.

BART management, meanwhile, is also in a tough spot, because they can't trust the train operators and station agents union. Management had reached a tentative agreement with the union's leadership, but then the union's rank-and-file turned it down. That makes it hard for management to make a deal with the union negotiators, because they apparently don't speak for their members. It'll be tough for BART management to go forward with negotiations - unless the union leaders can figure out definitively what their members want.

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