Senate GOP leader offers new transit-strike ban

All public transit employees in California would be prohibited from striking, under a bill rolled out Monday by the state Senate’s Republican leader.

State Sen. Bob Huff, R-Brea, pitched the reworked bill during an interview with Ronn Owens on KGO Radio.

Bob Huff“If we’re going to make the people of California reliant on public transit systems, then we also have an obligation to make sure those systems can be relied on,” Huff said. “Shutting down public transit is neither safe nor fair. Police officers and fire fighters aren’t allowed to strike because they provide a vital public service. The same reason applies here. Public transit is a vital public service and it’s too important to be used as a bargaining chip against the needs of the people.”

Huff in September had gutted and amended SB 423 to compel BART workers to honor the no-strike clause in their contracts even after those contracts expire. But he only amended the bill on the last working day of the legislative session, so no action was taken.

When BART workers did go on strike, it cost the Bay Area about $70 million per day, according to the Bay Area Council, and public opinion weighed heavily against the striking workers.

“There are approximately 400 public transit agencies in California serving 1.35 billion riders each year and when union contracts are up, threats of strikes increase dramatically,” said Huff. “Workers for the two largest transit systems in California – San Francisco and Los Angeles – have combined to strike nine times since 1976. Management is just as responsible for creating these situations, and enough is enough.”

Yet Huff’s new bill would control and penalize only workers and unions, not management.

Huff’s newly amended SB 423 would ban strikes by all California public transit workers, with anyone who violates the ban subject to removal or other disciplinary action. Huff says the bill provides “a fair violation determination process” for such workers, but if a violation is found, such workers would lose two days of pay for every day of strike.

Public transit unions similarly would be banned from instigating strikes, and if the Public Employee Relations Board finds a violation, that union’s rights would be forfeited for an indefinite period; after three years of forfeiture, an employee organization could seek reinstatement by the Legislature.

BART’s biggest unions didn’t immediately respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    Rots o’ ruck to Bob in the all dimmiecrat legislature (a wholly owned subsidiary of the public employee unions).

  • JohnW

    “Yet Huff’s new bill would control and penalize only workers and unions, not management.”

    It would be nice to see some robust challenges to the BART board incumbents. Maybe Kris Hunt, former executive director of CoCo Taxpayers Assn.

  • Oldmonkey

    Public employee unions and their employers should be forced to binding arbitration.

  • Oldmonkey

    The Bart board is just as bad if not worse. Protesters allowed to disrupt Bart trains? It’s bad enough the trains are filthy inside, stink, and are dirty on the outside.

  • Oldmonkey

    It would be nice to see after a certain level, management put out to private contract. The idea of senior management claiming their own perks and multiplying them with union seniority make me want to hurl

  • JohnW

    Binding arbitration would eliminate the strikes but wouldn’t do much to improve the contracts in favor of riders and taxpayers.

    Arbitrators would probably just split the difference and give the unions most of what they would expect to get by striking or threatening to strike. Hard to imagine an arbitrator forcing the union to accept tough changes on things like pensions and health care premiums. However, they might be tougher on unions in the area of work rules.

    Part of me says to let them strike but pass the following laws:

    No retroactive pay or pay increases to compensate for lost wages while out on strike.
    No contract restrictions on management freedom to train replacement workers.
    Management can impose contract terms for three years if a deal is not agreed to within 60 days after the old contract expires.

  • DrDuran

    The new contract (if it ever takes effect) does not have any retro pay for the strike days.

    Management has proven they can’t train replacement workers, heck, they don’t have the experience to even run an empty train, much less one with passengers.

    Having management able to impose terms in that way would be a violation of federal and state labor laws.

  • JohnW

    I’m pretty sure you are wrong about imposing contract terms. Just Google “labor imposing contract terms” and you will find a number of fairly recent stories about contract terms being imposed, including public sector unions in CA.

    As for the new contract not having any retro pay, it ain’t over until it’s over.

    Training replacement workers, including refresher training for managers who are former union employees, happens all the time in the private sector. There are probably also former BART employees who wouldn’t mind making some extra money during a strike.

  • Elwood

    Pleasant Hill police are working under an imposed contract.

  • DrDuran

    there are very specific conditions that have to be met before a contract can be imposed, what you suggested seems like a way to short circuit that, which as I said would be a violation of both federal and state labor laws.

    what happens in the private sector has nothing to do with what happens at BART.

    as for former workers, management offered recent retirees quite a chunk of change to come back, none of them took the bait.

  • DrDuran

    Not disagreeing with your comment, but what does it have to do with the line you quoted?

  • JohnW

    Huff said both management and unions were to blame. The comment I quoted pointed out that his legislation doesn’t speak to the management part. That’s understandable. There is no legislative fix for the management issues. Only the board can address that, which is why the board needs some new members.

  • JohnW

    I’m not familiar with the state and federal laws on this subject, so I’ll take your word for it. However, as for state law, I was advocating for legislation that would allow BART to impose terms. Also, whatever those conditions may be, they didn’t seem to stop Pleasant Hill (as noted by Elwood), Orange County (attorneys’ union) or Davis (fire fighters).

    Bringing back retirees may be problematic for the reason you stated. I don’t know how much management could accomplish in terms of keeping some service going. However, the fact that there are contractual restrictions on bringing them up to speed prior to the end of a contract suggests to me than the unions think management could accomplish enough to weaken the union’s leverage if the handcuffs weren’t there.

  • Jesse Bluma

    Taking advice from Bob Huff is like letting a wolf tell you how to get to Grandma’s house. http://pointeviven.blogspot.com/2013/11/state-senator-bob-huff-education-wolf_9911.html