Both Sides On BART Negotiations Spend Tuesday Preparing For Fact-Finding Panel

Negotiators for BART and unions representing about 2,400 employees didn’t meet Tuesday and instead prepared for a hearing that a fact-finding panel appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown will hold on Wednesday.

BART workers, who previously went on strike for four-and-a-half days at the beginning of July, gave notice late last week that they would go on strike again Monday morning if a contract agreement hadn’t been reached but Brown intervened late Sunday night by appointing the board to investigate the labor dispute.

The three-person panel, which is headed by Jacob Appelsmith, a senior advisor to Brown who also is Director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department, will report back to Brown by Sunday.

The other members of the board are Robert Balgenorth, the president emeritus of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and Micki Callahan, San Francisco’s human resources director.

Appelsmith said in a letter to BART and its labor unions that he and Brown urge “all parties to continue with the negotiations process” even as the fact-finding is conducted.

“The convening of the board should not delay negotiations in any way,” Appelsmith said.

However, BART and leaders of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers, haven’t met since Brown intervened Sunday night.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost and SEIU Local 1021 negotiator Des Patten both said today that all the parties have been busy gathering information for the panel’s hearing on Wednesday, which is expected to be lengthy.

Patten and Trost said talks are expected to resume on Thursday.

Patten said, “We expect them to continue through Sunday night.”

He said if an agreement isn’t reached by Sunday night, it’s possible that employees could go on strike next Monday.

However, in all previous instances in which governors have intervened in BART labor disputes and called for a fact-finding process they have wound up ordering a 60-day cooling off period.

Brown intervened after BART’s board of directors sent him a letter on Sunday asking for a cooling off period.

The board’s request was a reversal as it previously had not asked for a cooling off period because if there had to be a strike it would be better to have one in the summer, when there are fewer passengers than in the fall.

Trost said the board asked for the cooling off period only after union leaders rejected BART’s request that the two sides keep negotiating while train service continued.

ATU Local 1555 leaders asked for a cooling off period shortly before the original contract deadline on June 30 but SEIU Local 1021 didn’t join that request.

Patten said today, “We haven’t taken a position on a cooling off period officially. We want to see what happens this week and go from there.”

The key issues in the negotiations are wages and pension and health care contributions by employees.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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