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Politics

Phil Matier: Why BART Is Relying On State Mediators Instead Of Local Politicians

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Amalgamated Transit Union workers hold signs as they strike outside of a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station on July 1, 2013 in Oakland.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Amalgamated Transit Union workers hold signs as they strike outside of a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station on July 1, 2013 in Oakland. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PhilMatier01-370 Phil Matier
Whether it's politics, personalities or analysis Phil Matier is one ...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The unions on strike at BART say that a number of Bay Area politicians have offered to help end the dispute. But a BART representative said the agency is relying on state mediators to bring the two sides together.

There’s a reason why.

The Service Employees International Union is a powerful union and big in the Democratic Party, so they will call on their allies — which includes just about every lawmaker in Northern California.

So they put out letters that say in effect “let’s get talking.”
That is just one of their forms of leverage to get the political power behind them.

The flip side, however, is that there are constituents out there — especially in the suburban areas — sending their district representatives e-mails saying something like, “Why don’t you do what Ronald Reagan did and fire them all and let’s just replace them? If they don’t like it, get rid of them.”

Let’s face it, it’s all about money.

It’s about wage and benefits that workers have received over the years — some as a result of the last strike in 1997, when local politicians like then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown got involved. As a result, BART is having a difficult time paying those benefits and that’s why they have had these years of drought.

Beyond the difficulty of finding someone to bridge the transit agency and the unions, there’s the challenge to find a deal that will satisfy the workers who have already walked out. They are going to want something to show for it. And the unions won’t be able to sell any deal to their members unless it includes something substantial.

I think BART and the unions are going to start talking on Tuesday but the question is: When do you get to some kind of deal that doesn’t give away the store but gets everybody back to work? I’m not convinced, at this point, that any politician could do that.

We are going through a period right now where people have to vent and everyone has to go through these traffic headaches. But we also have the Independence holiday coming up on Thursday which should prove interesting. Many people will take the day off on Wednesday and even more are going to take Friday off.

I’m just saying that there may be a cool front moving in.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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