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Gov. Brown will seek cooling off period BART talks fail

August 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Gov. Jerry Brown announced late Friday he will seek a court order for a 60-day cooling off period if BART management and its unions fail to reach an agreement by Sunday morning.

"I urge all parties to think of the public and resolve this matter without delay, but if there's no resolution by Sunday, I will seek a 60-day cooling off period," said the governor in a statement.

A report submitted to Gov. Brown by the board of inquiry he appointed last Sunday to examine the dispute, issued its findings. The report concluded that "a strike will cause significant harm to the public's health, safety and welfare."

While the two sides still seem far apart on the negotiations, they were at the bargaining table all day Friday.

The governor's announcement came as a relief to Bay Area commuters, who will not face the possibility of a strike on Monday. But the unions say they are not happy with Brown's decision, or his announcement. They wish he had waited a little longer before announcing he would seek this cooling off period.

"It's really the only guarantee to make sure we have train service," BART communications manager Alicia Trost said.

Now that Gov. Brown has indicated he will seek a court ordered cooling-off period, if necessary, to keep BART trains running, the focus will be on getting a deal done at the bargaining table.

"We're at the table, we're trying to make it happen, we're here today, we're talking about the economic proposals, we're hoping to see some movement on their part, we're here to compromise," Trost said.

"We wish that the governor had not made an announcement that he was going to go seek for a cooling-off period, because it would have been better if both parties felt the kind of pressure necessary to arrive at a deal," SEIU negotiator Josie Mooney said.

But BART's unions have indicated if the last two days are any sign, a final agreement could still be very far off.

"But given the last 30 days and this seven days with no movement, little resistance to bargaining in good faith, only surface bargaining, it does not serve the purpose of what the public expects or what our members expect," said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant.

"Again, we're just ready to negotiate and see if we can get any kind of deal," union negotiator Chris Finn said. "So, hopefully, the district is seriously opposed to a strike and comes to the table and negotiates. Again, we were at the table all day yesterday. They were there for 25 minutes."

But BART's lead negotiator Thomas Hock told us that's how negotiations like this go when a state mediator is involved. The two sides, BART and its unions, rarely meet face-to-face.

"A lot of times, when you get the negotiations at this stage, it's done through the mediators, it's not done across the table," Hock said. "It's easier for a mediator to take things from one room to the other and try to massage things."

That's what we understand is happening Friday night, with a mediator going back and forth between the two sides who are in separate rooms. We're not exactly how long they will go into the night. They are expected to negotiate through the weekend.

If the parties fail to resolve their dispute, the San Francisco Superior Court will consider Gov. Brown's request on Sunday at 9 a.m.

If the court finds that a strike will significantly disrupt public transportation services and endanger the public's health, safety or welfare, an order will be issued enjoining the strike for a period of 60 days.


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