BART’s new board president Joel Keller made a bold move Thursday, saying he wants voters to weigh in on whether BART’s union workers should be banned from going on strike.
Riders remember all too well the chaos and frustration that faced BART’s 400,000 daily riders and other commuters, when contract talks stalled and the SEIU and ATU members walked off the job in July and October.
At the BART Board of Directors meeting Keller said he’ll start the 60-day proceedings to put the issue on the November ballot in the district’s three jurisdictions: Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties.
“This would be an advisory measure,” Keller explained, “Asking the state legislature to determine that BART workers are essential employees to be treated like fire and police.”
Members of BART’s SEIU, ATU and AFSCME unions were outraged.
“He basically called a war on employees and unions,” said Patricia Schuchardt, the President of AFSCME Local 3993.
“That’s the whole reason of having collective bargaining. When you take away striking, there’s only power on one side,” Schuchardt said.
The SEIU Local 1021 Executive Director Pete Castelli said it was all politics.
“We think it’s basically a play for his campaign to try and woo the public into this,” Castelli said.
Keller represents eastern Contra Costa County and is up for re-election.
His proposal would ban strikes for BART workers and instead require binding arbitration by a third party if the district and the unions can’t reach a deal by the deadlines.
Meantime, Orinda councilman Steve Glazer is attempting to gather enough signatures to put a statewide ban on transit strikes.
Lawmakers could also enact a bill banning strikes.
Public opinion seems to be mixed.
“They might have not have any power to have any change and 326 even though I’m very irritated by them, I don’t want to totally ruin the unions, so I’m torn,” Margaret Flaherty, a rider from Berkeley.
“I think the voters should have the opportunity to decide that themselves,” said Doug Cross of Oakland.
“I would like to see transportation that affects this amount of people handled differently,” said Pam Volan, a rider from Pleasant Hill.
To get the issue on the November ballot, it will have to pass the BART Board and even then, it would only be an advisory showing public opinion.