Governor Keeps BART Trains Rolling

BART commuters were undoubtedly delighted to board trains on Monday morning thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown's last minute action to return BART employees to work for one week while a panel investigates why negotiations have stalled.

John Coté and John Wildermuth write that the governor intervened at the request (PDF) of the Bay Area Rapid Transit district management. "The appeal to the governor 'was the only option to keep the trains rolling,' said Tom Radulovich, president of BART's board of directors." 

Workers were set to strike at 12:01 AM on Monday, and expected to cause traffic gridlock for the morning commute. Negotiators for BART's unions had expressed deep dissatisfaction with the course the talks had taken after they had given their required 72-hour strike notice, so a shutdown of the region's transit workhorse seemed imminent.

In a letter to BART's general manager and three top union leaders, (Gov. Brown) said he is stepping in because a strike "will significantly disrupt public transportation services and will endanger the public's health, safety and welfare."

A three-member panel will "provide the governor with a written, public report on the contract talks within seven days" while BART continues to provide full service.  "Brown then will decide whether to impose a 60-day cooling-off period on BART and its unions, which would delay any possible strike until mid-October at the earliest."

Dan Brekke, news editor at the Bay Area's NPR affiliate, KQED, writes that for the next week, rather than the unions negotiating with BART, each side will make their case to the governor's panel.

SEIU Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez thanked the governor for stepping in, but said that all sides must now focus on presenting a case to the investigating board. "Unfortunately, it takes our attention away from the bargaining table," Sanchez said. 

Which may be just as well, since a full month of negotiations after the initial, four and one-half day strike temporarily ended on July 5th seems to have made no tangible progress.

Ironically, the Monday morning commute via the main alternative to BART - the Bay Bridge - was seriously impacted by a big-rig fire that closed down two lanes of I-80 into San Francisco from Oakland.

Full Story: BART strike averted - for now

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