OAKLAND (KCBS) – In the midst of continuing contract talks following two strikes over the past year, the new president of the Bay Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors is looking to ban union workers from walking off the job in the future.
Joel Keller began his term as BART board president on Thursday. The longtime board member has served as board president twice before.
Keller said he has seen a lot of labor strife in his 19 years, which is why he is proposing that the board put an advisory measure on the November 2014 ballot urging legislators to change the BART Act to disallow transit strikes, making them essential workers such as police officers and firefighters.
“The BART Act is now 40 years old and I think when we initially formed the district, a transit strike wasn’t as devastating on the region as it is today,” Keller said.
The proposal would be across three counties – San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa – where the district has elected representatives. Keller’s proposal would mean that instead of labor negotiations, which became arduous between management and unions this year, fact finding and binding arbitration would solve future labor disputes.
Chris Finn, Recording Secretary for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, one of two unions still trying to hash out a contract resolution with BART, said this type of measure would be a waste of taxpayer money.
Finn said that BART’s board should not change the BART Act, but instead, change the culture.
“If we change the culture at BART, where you can have the workers and management sitting down and figuring out, with a shared interest, how to keep BART running, for the passenger’s interest, for everybody’s interest, than you wouldn’t have this at all,” he said.
Finn said no-strike clauses don’t always work in other cities and oftentimes, all it serves to do is reduce worker’s ability to make improvements.
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