A look back at the history of BART talks, strikes

BART talks have always been contentious, but have rarely led to a strike. We look back at the history of its labor negotiations.
October 18, 2013 7:18:39 PM PDT
BART labor negotiations have always been contentious, but have rarely led to a strike. We talked to a former BART insider about what this strike might mean for the future.

Until this year's July and current strikes, BART had three prior.

Two weeks in 1976 when workers went out in solidarity with the BART police officers union. Then in 1979 there was a 90-day strike or lockout depending on which side you ask. And in 1997 there was an 8-day strike.

Former BART Director Michael Bernick was on the board from 1988 to 1996 and then went on to become Director of the California Employment Development Department. He remembers how in 1994 then-Vice President Al Gore stepped in to avert a strike.

He says BART labor negotiations have just always been highly contentious and always come down to the last minute. However, he adds, "I was frankly very surprised by what happened yesterday, we've never had that dynamic before."

Bernick thinks the current unfair labor practices strike is more evidence that the bargaining process is dysfunctional and has to be changed.

To avoid future strikes, he's in favor of a strike ban and arbitration replacing bargaining.

"It's not only the unions who are strongly against this, management doesn't like it," Bernick said. "So if you figure management and the unions both don't like it, something has to be good."

U.C. Berkeley labor expert, ProfessorHarley Shaiken, thinks Bernick's wish may come true.

"Legislature could act, BART doesn't want to see compulsory arbitration, the union doesn't want to see a ban on strikes in transit," Prof. Shaiken said. "Both were highly unlikely, but could become likely if this becomes a long strike."

Bernick says legislators are working behind the scenes now to end this strike, but there's only one with the stature to make a difference.

"My own view is that there's probably only one person in the state who can end this and that's the governor," he said.

We asked Gov. Jerry Brown's office about any plans to get involved. They said he already did, when he ordered the cooling off.

Stay with ABC7NEWS.COM for updates on the BART strike and information on how to get around while the trains aren't running. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and download our news app for the latest news whenever and wherever you want.

(Bay City News and ABC7 News reporters Laura Anthony, Matt Keller, Amy Hollyfield, and Nick Smith contributed to this story.)


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