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Phil Matier: California Lawmakers Kill Proposal To Ban Transit Strikes

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Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains sit idle at a BART maintenance facility. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains sit idle at a BART maintenance facility. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO (KCBS / KPIX 5 COMMENTARY) — With little debate, a State Senate committee killed a proposal Monday that would have banned transit workers from going on strike.

The bill proposed by State Senator Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) followed two recent BART strikes that left many Bay Area commuters in the lurch.

Orinda City Councilman and Assembly candidate State Glazer, who collected more than 20,000 signatures in support of the ban said he wasn’t surprised.

“So there is strong support for it from the people. But the politicians, they are all hiding under the bed,” Glazer said.

The debate didn’t last long. As far as hearings go, it was probably one of the shortest I’ve ever seen. Huff came in, laid out his proposal and was followed by seven or so union representatives who slammed his idea.

The union members argued a strike should not be taken away and that if anything it should be subject to bargaining.

“We firmly believe that if this right is going to be taken away, it should be bargained away at the collective bargaining table,” said Michael Bolden of the Service Employees International Union.

Mike Anderson of the United Transportation Union said, “To destroy the present process of dispute resolution would be counterproductive.”

“The employer would be left with all of the weapons at their disposal, and yet the workers would have no recourse,” said Caitlin Vega of the California Labor Federation.

To counter the unions’ claims, Huff said, “They’re the ones with the weapon, holding a gun at the some 400,000 people that are transit dependent in the Bay Area – and grinding it to a halt.”

Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) said Huff’s proposal went too far. “Which is why I have a hard time supporting your bill because it goes way over there – I think there could be more discussion,” he said.

Huff’s bill simply didn’t have enough votes to get out of committee and was along party lines with Democrats saying no to the idea of banning strikes. In a legislature dominated by Democrats, that’s pretty much all she wrote.

In the end, union and labor is a very big deal with the Democratic Party. In this case, it’s not necessarily who’s in support of something or opposed to it, but who shows up. Labor showed up, but BART management didn’t, nor did its riders. I guess they were too busy getting to and from work.

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