BART unions file lawsuit against transit agency, dispute escalates

BART unions claim the BART district broke California state law when it removed one item from a ratified contract deal.
December 3, 2013 6:38:04 PM PST
On Friday, ABC7 News broke the story of Bay Area Rapid Transit's unions planning to sue the district, and today that suit was filed. The unions claim the board broke California state law when it removed one item from the ratified deal.

So could another strike be looming?

"In all these years of looking at collective bargaining we have never seen anything like this," said XXX.

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, says it was illegal for the BART board to unilaterally remove a single item from the ratified contract, then offer it to the unions on a take-it-or-leave it basis.

"They must honor the total final agreement. We're asking a court to enforce the employer's obligation to do so," said SEIU 1021 attorney Kerianne Steele.

"The lawsuit isn't needed and it's going to delay a resolution to this labor dispute," said BART spokesperson Alicia Trost.

The disputed contract was reached after six months of painful negotiations and two strikes. The unions ratified it. But then BART says it discovered a clause on family leave that was signed by mistake. Section 4.8 gives workers six weeks of paid family medical leave. BART says the legal paper trail shows the district rejected it twice and never intended to agree to it because it makes the deal far too expensive.

"There are ways that we could implement that language that would be acceptable, we believe, to both parties. They're not willing to entertain that discussion," said ATU 1555 attorney Kate Hallward.

Both sides say they want to bargain a resolution, but the unions have not heard from BART since before the disputed vote removing the leave clause.

"The general manager did reach out to union leadership shortly after finding the mistake, asked to sit down and have a conversation about it. Those requests have gone unanswered," said Trost.

The unions say there is no strike planned or scheduled, but they're not ruling it out either.

A mediator is still active and could play a role in getting everyone back to the table.

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