SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — A board created to investigate Bay Area Rapid Transit’s ongoing labor fight will hold a public hearing to examine the contract dispute between BART’s management and unions.
Jacob Appelsmith, chair of the investigatory board, sent a letter to both parties Monday asking for summaries of their positions ahead of the hearing.
The hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the State Of California building (2nd floor, Rm. 1) at 1515 Clay Street in Oakland and will be open to the public.
Gov. Jerry Brown impaneled the board late Sunday, averting a strike that would have created traffic mayhem for Bay Area commuters on Monday.
Complete Coverage:BART Strike and Contract Talks
The board will conduct a seven-day inquiry into the contract dispute, in which wages, pensions and health care benefits have been key sticking points. Union leaders said Monday that no negotiations were scheduled.
Brown’s order was issued under a decades-old law that allows the state to intervene if a strike will significantly disrupt public transportation services and endanger public health. It came after BART Board President Tom Radulovich sent a letter to the governor requesting his intervention and a cooling off period of 60 days.
“For the sake of the people of the Bay Area, I urge — in the strongest terms possible — the parties to meet quickly and as long as necessary to get this dispute resolved,” Brown said in the order.
“We will bring our latest offer that was made over the weekend and make it public at the meeting,” Rick Rice, spokesman for BART, said.
Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said union officials are still in discussion over their plans.
“We will be meeting to determine what will be presented; but at this point, we have not determined what that will be,” she said.
The board will report its findings to the governor, who can then petition a court to call a 60-day cooling-off period, said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown. The report will explain BART and the unions’ positions, but will not find fault or issue a recommendation.
Meanwhile, commuters who rely on BART breathed a sigh of relief on Monday. Matthew Purpura, 25, commutes from San Francisco to Oakland, where he works as a coffee roaster. He said he would have borrowed his friend’s car to get to work, but the commute would have been a “nightmare.”
Alexis Braren, 33, commutes on BART within San Francisco, and walked three miles to her workplace when BART workers previously went on strike in July. BART service was shut down for four days during that strike, leading to clogged roadways and long lines for buses and ferries. Unions later agreed to call off the strike and extended their contracts until Sunday while negotiations continued.
“It made my life easier, that’s for sure,” Braren said about BART trains running on Monday.
Despite allegations of stalling late Sunday, earlier in the weekend union leaders cautiously expressed hope for agreement and said progress was being made.
Employees with BART’s two largest labor unions average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. They pay nothing toward their pensions and a $92-a-month flat fee for health insurance, according to BART.
Brown named to the board his senior adviser Appelsmith, who is also director of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. In addition, he named Micki Callahan, San Francisco’s director of human resources, and Robert Balgenorth, president emeritus of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, both who have union backgrounds.
The board will be working under the threat of a potential strike involving another transit agency, as the union representing about 1,800 Alameda-Contra Costa (AC) Transit District bus operators, mechanics, dispatchers, and other employees on Monday gave notice of a strike that could begin as soon as Wednesday.
(Copyright 2013 CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)