BART Talks Deadlock: What Lies Ahead

On Friday, Oct. 18, a sign on the Bay Bridge warns commuters to expect traffic because of no BART service. (Ellen Barkenbush/KQED)
On Friday, Oct. 18, a sign on the Bay Bridge warns commuters to expect traffic because of no BART service. (Ellen Barkenbush/KQED)

Should transit employees in California be barred from walking off the job?

Orinda City Councilman Steve Glazer thinks so. He launched a petition late last month to push for legislation that does exactly that.

With the BART strike — once again — snarling Bay Area traffic and inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of people, Glazer, who is running for a state Assembly seat and is a longtime adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, said rider support for the proposal has soared in recent days as the threat of a strike loomed and then began today. Since union leaders announced the strike on Thursday afternoon, the petition has gained about 4,000 new signatures, Glazer said.

Glazer says he will use the petition to urge state legislators to draft a bill that would ban transit strikes.

“We need the state legislative delegation of the Bay Area to step up and show some courage and independence and protect BART riders,” Glazer said.

William Gould, professor emeritus at Stanford Law School and a noted labor law scholar, said state legislation prohibiting BART strikes is the best way to avoid future labor standoffs like the one that led to a strike this week. But, Gould said, it will only work if the legislation is structured correctly.

Gould said such legislation should be coupled with a requirement that both sides submit to what he called “final offer arbitration,” which is used by Major League Baseball, among others.

Stanford University Professor William Gould (Courtesy Stanford University)
Stanford University Professor William Gould (Courtesy Stanford University)

Traditional arbitration lets the arbitrator split the difference between high and low offers, reaching a halfway solution, Gould said. He said this method encourages both sides to make extreme demands and discourages them from settling things on their own.

In final offer arbitration, the arbitrator can choose only one of two competing proposals. This encourages both sides to work things out at the bargaining table and make more reasonable offers that have a better chance of being accepted, Gould said.

Gould spoke more about the topic with KQED’s Paul Lancour this afternoon. Here is the interview:

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With contributions from Bay City News.

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    Fire these OVERPAID workers. There are plenty waiting to take their jobs.

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