After a brief but disruptive strike in July, a 30-day contract extension, and a 60-day cooling-off period, transit workers in the San Francisco areaÂ may once again strikeÂ as early as Tuesday. Bay Area Rapid Transit authority management has made what it’s characterizing as “last, best, and final” offer, meaning it plans to stop negotiating and ultimately just impose its offer on workers. Union officials are saying that if management doesn’t return to the bargaining table, they’ll have no choice but to strike:
Union leaders dismissed the offer Sunday as “regressive,” saying it was lower than previous offers. They extended their previous strike deadline by one day, to midnight Tuesday, but warned that members would strike if BART did not return to the table ready to negotiate.”We regret that this action needs to be taken but we have done everything we can do to bargain fairly,” said Antonette Bryant, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555. “Our members don’t want to go on strike, but we are being backed into a corner.”
Management has returned to bargaining after claiming a last, best, and final offer beforeâ€”but alsoÂ hasn’t shown much commitment to bargainingÂ at all, let alone in good faith. When the cooling-off period began:
Instead of bargaining around the clock, management steadfastly refused to meet, and repeatedly stymied efforts by state-appointed mediators to schedule bargaining sessions. BART management informed its unions that it had already made its â€śbest, last, and final offer.â€ť There was therefore no reason to negotiate, explained BARTâ€™s expensive Ohio-based negotiator Tom Hock, as further sessions would â€śnot be fruitful.â€ťHock, who is being paid almost $400,000 or about $3,400 per day, was unavailable for almost a third of the 30-day contract extension period in July, and he refused to meet the unions during the first month or so of the 60-day cooling off period. Hock found nothing in the injunction that â€śspecifies any required meeting schedule.â€ť Instead, it required â€śonly that the parties maintain the status quoâ€ť — i.e., avoid a strike or lockout. When the 60-day cooling off period started, his position appeared to be, â€śSee you on day 40â€ť!
BART workers haven’t had a raise in five years, and have made significant concessions in recent years to help bolster the system’s financial stability. Now they’re faced with managementÂ exaggerating how much they’re paidÂ to make them look greedy, whenâ€”as the July strike made clearâ€”they’re essential to the economy and quality of life in the Bay Area.
This article was originally printed on Daily Kos on October 14, 2013. Â Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Â Laura ClawsonÂ is the labor editor at Daily Kos.