Legislation banning transit strikes killed in committee


State Senate Republican leader Bob Huff thinks there should be a ban on strikes for those who run subway systems, buses, and light rail. But Huff's bill was killed after a brief hearing in front of a state Senate committee on a strict party-line vote. It was no match for the strong influence unions hold with Democrats.

"We firmly believe if this right is going to be taken away, it should be bargained away at the collective bargaining table; it should not be legislated," SEIU spokesperson Michael Bolden said.

To be fair, major public transit strikes are rare in California.

Over the last 20 years, it appears only two strikes, both in Los Angeles County, have lasted beyond a few days. In Sacramento, there hasn't been a public transit strike since 1978. But the battle over BART reignited the issue. One estimate put the lost economic output in the Bay Area during that fight at more than $70 million.

Unions, though, say the strike remains their only way to stand up to an employer who refuses to compromise.

Even so, the bill's author says lawmakers have pushed for years to make public transportation more and more essential to California's future; an essential, he says, is more and more at risk.

"We want to encourage population centers to build around transit," Huff said. "And yet, we can hold the very people hostage when you get one of these labor agreements that comes due for renewal."

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