State Assemblywoman Catharine B. Baker (R-San Ramon) introduced legislation today that would prevent future strikes by unionized employees of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART).
This was the first bill she has authored since her election to the Assembly last November.
Baker's bill would close a loophole in current state law that allowed BART workers to strike twice in 2013.
Baker said that during the strikes in 2013, when the union contracts expired, workers went on strike even though management had honored the expired contract by paying benefits and wages during contract negotiations.
This bill prevents that lopsided outcome by providing that if the transit district honors its part of the expired contract, employees must do the same and honor the no-strike clause. Workers can't cherry pick what parts of the contract they will honor.
Baker's measure, Assembly Bill 528, would prohibit BART employees from engaging in a strike or work stoppage after the contract has expired if the transit district board maintains the compensation and benefit provisions of an expired contract and an employee or employee organization has agreed to a provision prohibiting strikes in the expired contract.
"This is a very different and unique approach to preventing future BART strikes," Baker said. "This approach is fair to workers, riders and the general public who rely so heavily on our mass transit system."
"Last year, commuters were held hostage when BART workers went on strike twice, bringing transportation in the Bay Area to a grinding halt. Hard-working Californians couldn't get to work or to medical appointments, or get their children to school.
"The strike hit the pocketbooks of families who weren't paid because they couldn't get across the Bay to work. Businesses were short staffed and the Bay Area economy took a hit of more than $73 million for each day of the strike. More than 400,000 BART commuters were impacted, in addition to the entire Bay Area population that felt the effects of jammed roads, buses, and ferries.
"The public was the victim of this impasse, and we can't let it happen again."
Dublin Mayor David Haubert agreed.
"Being home to two BART stations, Dublin and its residents were heavily impacted when BART workers decided to strike," he said. "The strike impacted our local economy and hurt our residents."
"It is my hope that the Legislature will stand up for residents and support legislation that prevents this from happening again," he added.
Bay Area Council president and CEO Jim Wunderman also commented on the Baker bill.
"Mass transit strikes take a huge economic and environmental toll, not including the disruption and inconvenience they cause for hundreds of thousands of commuters," he said.
"BART is the workhorse of the Bay Area's transit system, and the 2013 strike conservatively cost the Bay Area $73 million a day in lost worker productivity and $3.3 million in additional fuel costs from commuters forced into their cars.
"Increased traffic congestion spewed 16 million pounds of carbon into the air each day. Holding the public hostage over a contract dispute is unfair, unreasonable and unnecessary. We need to find a better way to resolve BART contract disputes."
Pleasanton Vice-mayor Karla Brown said that "after only a few months on the job, Assembly member Katharine Baker has begun to fulfill her commitment to all East Bay BART riders."
"Her new bill will close the loophole that allowed BART employees to strike while they received pay and benefits under an expired contract," Brown said. "Ms. Baker is an elected official that follows through on her promises how refreshing."