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By Tim Hunt

Baker bill targets BART strikes

Uploaded: Feb 26, 2015

Catharine Baker, the Tri-Valley's representative in the Assembly in Sacramento, introduced her first legislation aimed at stopping BART workers' strikes.
Her bill, AB 528, would forbid BART workers from striking after a contract expires as long as the agency continues to pay salaries and benefits in the prior contract. It sounds reasonable and certainly is addressing a problem.
The caveat: the labor unions would have had to agree to a no-strike clause in a contract. Without that clause, the bill has no effect.
Here's the legislative summary, "Would prohibit employees of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District from engaging in a strike or work stoppage if the transit district board maintains the compensation and benefit provisions of an expired contract and an employee or employee organization has agreed to a provision prohibiting strikes in the expired or previous written labor contract. The bill would provide that an employee whom the transit district employer finds willfully engaged in a strike or work stoppage in violation of these provisions is subject to dismissal if that finding is sustained upon conclusion of the appropriate proceedings necessary for the imposition of a disciplinary action."
It will take one pile of money in an agreement before any union is going to give away the right to walk out. And BART workers, from a total compensation standpoint, already are the best paid in the nation. The system has a huge backlog of maintenance issues and needs to come up with the money to replace its aging fleet of cars.
I saw a graphic in Monday' Wall Street Journal accompanying a story about winter fuel prices.
The national average for unleaded regular is $2.30. The average in California is $2.95 (New York is $2.49). And, around here, it is more like $3.40 because prices have climbed steadily for the last month.
It is one of the pocketbook prices we pay for our custom gasoline blend?we do the same with electricity with the governor's mandate for utilities to produce 30 percent of their power from renewable sources?not including hydro. Of course, given our winter, hydro will again be in short supply this summer.

UPDATE: Assemblywoman Baker called today and I was very surprised to learn that BART already has a no-strike clause in its existing labor agreements. She pointed out that once the contract has expires, labor and management cherry-pick what clauses they will continue to follow and the labor leaders have ignored the no-strike clause, while management has continued to pay the workers. Her bill is a simple and common-sense solution that here's hoping gains traction on both sides of the political aisle.