The head of the California state Senate’s transportation committee, Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), said this week that he is considering introducing legislation that would permanently take away BART workers’ right to strike. Public transit strikes are already illegal in many major cities, including New York, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. But there is no state law banning such walkouts in California. Should the state legislature act to prohibit strikes in transit disputes? Or would such a law be unfair to workers?

William Gould, professor emeritus specializing in labor law and employment discrimination law at Stanford Law School; and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board in the Clinton administration
John Logan, director of Labor Studies at San Francisco State University, and senior labor policy specialist at the UC Berkeley Labor Center

  • Cheryl Archer

    A law prohibiting transit union strikes would not, on balance, be unfair, given the impact on the Bar Area. Law enforcement and other first responders cannot strike, so transit workers would not be alone. And, while I’m not comfortable with the notion, transit services are uniquely significant to our economy, health, and general welfare of this Bay Area. I’m not as concerned about the fairness of prohibiting transit strikes as I am about the potential abuse of the power BART unions wield.

    • utera

      Yea they are effectively a government supported monopoly so they can’t pretend they don’t play by different rules already. If we had a free market with a bunch of transit lines like in the old age of steam locomotives, I guess strikes would be fine, but its bart or nothing now so they shouldn’t have the right to hold the bay area hostage.

  • Bob Fry

    Good idea. Just because some work in a job that wields unusual power over the public doesn’t mean they should use that for selfish ends.

  • John M

    DO people consider “selfish ends”, the workers and families trying to prevent from going BACKWARDS on a contract after the last 2 contracts have taken away. Selfish and Greedy would have been accurate if they hadn’t ponied up and given back the last time, this time it should be catch-up since BART’s surplus for the last few years PLUS surpluses for the foreseeable future.

    • Bob Fry

      We’re just recovering from the worst depression since the 1930s. BART workers are far from being the most affected by the 2008 depression, and to insist that they be fully “caught up” at the great inconvenience and expense of the public is very unreasonable. People understand this, hence the lack of sympathy for greedy BART workers. There’s a lot more sympathy for the truly needy, those working at or near minimum wage with few or no benefits.

  • Chomsky_P

    Rather than add legislation that prevents striking, why not remove the contract language that prohibits BART from training workers until after current workers stop working? 15 weeks are required for train operators, which effectively gives the ATU a 15 week monopoly on the right to work for BART. WHy not get rid of this provision, and why did management agree to this?

  • erictremont

    I strongly support outlawing strikes by BART workers in order to end their extortionist tactics, although I fear that such a law would be undermined by public employee lobbying efforts and campaign contributions to their preferred politicians—I suspect that SEIU and ATU are already ramping up their efforts to influence the next round of elections for the BART board of directors.

  • trite

    KQED should have devoted an hour to this. I think that Bart strikes should be prohibited and binding arbitration enforced. The Bart union holds the Bay Area to hostage when it strikes, and the economic health and welfare of the region is greatly threatened. The unfunded pensions and the small healthcare contribution of its members has led to the current financial impasse.

  • jurgispilis

    Is Jerry Brown reading from the playbook of Scott Walker. Which party is now the union-friendly party? Neither!

    • Bob Fry

      As a state worker I can comment about state-worker unions. With just a very few exceptions they are all worthless, forcing yearly contributions from each worker in the hundreds of dollars, and returning to those workers over 50 days unpaid furlough days over the last few years, many years of pay raises less than the Fed or State inflation rate, and increases in payments to our retirement and health care. Some of these I agree with, specifically more contributions from employees to our own retirement. But my point is the state unions are useless unless you’re a janitor, secretary, or similar unskilled worker, OR if you’re a perpetual malcontent doing as little as possible.

      Even though Jerry Brown started the unions he has never been a friend of state workers, and in fact the state unions are basically a scam to raise and divert many millions of dollars to the Democratic Party.

  • geraldfnord

    0.) Can the transit system survive with the right to strike in place?
    1.) With a right to strike in place, has any _grievous_ harm occurred, or is it likely to do? (Being delayed to work is a normal harm, being delayed to the E.R. [due to increased traffic in the absence of BART] could be, in which case the question is ‘how much?’ and ‘how acceptable?’.
    2.) Can the BART workers get fair compensation without the right to strike?

    My biased answers:

    1.) Yes, as evidenced by its having done so and with no obviosu reason why that shouldn’t change.
    2.) Probably not—BART is not police intervention or fire-fighting…but probably needs further investigation by interested parties who could then fight it out in public.
    3.) No. Especially in tough times, even if not as tough as before, without the ability to withhold their labour there is no way for us to evaluate their full worth, and no incentive to do so, as their only lever left would be illegal sick-outs or an unlikely mass resignation.

    Without the ability to strike, we would wind up with unhappy BART workers, which beside being wrong in itself is exactly the same type (if not degree) of stupidity as being ujnpleasant to those who handle your food or shave you with a straight-razor.

  • thomas

    This whole discussion has a perverseness about it that seems to be ignored. The BART system is the county’s 5th largest transit system. It has the country’s oldest (and often dirtiest) trains in service. It is among the most expensive, with even higher fares starting next year and continuing over the next few years. It’s hours of operation are severely lacking (LA’s metro even runs later now – try depending on BART after getting in on an evening flight). It’s employees are the highest paid in the state and among the highest in the nation. We live in one of the most “progressive” areas in the country, yet we seem to have little to no concern for the disabled, elderly, poor and lower-middle class citizens that are disproportional affected by this strike. We have another weekend where hundreds of thousands of people are unsure of how they’re going to get to work, or the doctors, or to school, or to the airport on Monday. We are somehow okay with making those people lose their appointments, or shifts or (best case) to wait an hour to get on a dangerously crowded that takes at least another hour to get home through monstrous traffic. This is absolutely perverse. I am no apologist for the management, but the unions should be ashamed of themselves and their actions at holding the region, its economy, and it’s citizens hostage. It’s a shame that despite all our progressive flag waving we have no problem keeping hardworking people from their low and minimum wages jobs…all for the gain of a few thousand UPPER-MIDDLE CLASS (and mostly unskilled) workers that want a higher raise than what they’ve been offered.

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