Ahead of November Bond Ask, BART and Unions Secretly Craft Deal To Avoid Strikes

Ahead of November Bond Ask, BART and Unions Secretly Craft Deal To Avoid Strikes
Posted By Chris Roberts
on Mon, Apr 11, 2016 at 12:04 PM

• Michael Mandiberg/ Flickr

Like the rest of us, if there's one thing BART needs, it's money. And if there's one thing that will keep us from voting to give BART money, it's another commute-wrecking, traffic-causing, political opportunity-making worker strike.

There will be no BART strikes until at least 2021, following the secret renegotiation of BART's contract with its union workers.

Later today, BART and its three major unions plan to announce a new four-year worker contract, as ABC-7 first reported. This may seem premature — after all, the current contract is not even three years old yet — but securing this worker peace means securing peace with commuters who, when they become voters, have proven to take unkindly to BART workers striking.

This means those same voters may feel more kindly to BART this November, when the transit agency is expected to ask voters to approve a multi-billion-dollar voter bond.

Under terms of the deal, BART workers will receive wage increases of 2.5 percent to 2.7 percent every year. The new contract still needs to be ratified by the rank and file of BART's unions: Service Employees International Union 1021, which represents mechanics and technicians, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents train operators and station agents, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which represents midlevel management (including the worker killed on the tracks in 2013).

This is a very savvy political move for BART, which managed to take care of what could be its biggest political liability (aside from, say, having one of its major transit lines go out of service and be replaced by buses for several months while it waits for spare parts to arrive in August). Remember that East Bay state Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) was propelled to office largely on the promise that he would ban BART strikes.

Glazer is also no fan of BART's professed need for $3.5 billion from the voters in order to replace and repair its aging infrastructure. There may be many commuters like him, but they may well vote to dig into their wallets and help BART float a bond if it's the difference between a reliable train and arriving late to work. Especially if strikes are off the table, as they may be now.