Michele Ellson

Updated at 7:56 a.m. Monday, August 5

Governor Jerry Brown has put off the possibility of a BART strike for at least a week, appointing a panel to investigate the contract dispute between BART workers and management as the request of the transit agency's leaders.

In a letter to BART General Manager Grace Crunican and the heads of three unions negotiating for contracts, Brown said he's appointing a three-person board to look into the threatened strike, with a report due within seven days. In his letter, Brown wrote that the law prohibits a strike as the investigation proceeds.

"For the sake of the people of the Bay Area, I urge - in the strongest terms possible - the parties to meet quickly and as long as necessary to get this dispute resolved," Brown wrote.

Pursuant to state law that went into effect just over a year ago, the report will include a statement of the facts surrounding the dispute - including the parties' respective positions - but no recommendations regarding what should be done. The report will be made available to the public.

The BART board had asked the governor to invoke a 60-day cooling-off period in a letter sent today, saying the investigation would help clarify differences between management and labor proposals - differences that have led both sides to attempt to make their cases in the court of public opinion.

A cooling off period would "allow us to continue negotiating while assuring the public that it will have transit service tomorrow and for another 60 days as we continue to bargain," the letter said.

Leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union 1555, which represents BART drivers, said they're hoping the dispute will be resolved, though president Antonette Bryant told the San Jose Mercury News she was "extremely disappointed" the governor had to step in.

"We sincerely hope to come to a resolution so the riders that we serve do not have to suffer any further inconvenience," the drivers' union posted on Twitter.

The board will be chaired by Jacob Appelsmith, who will be leaving his post as senior adviser to Brown and head of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to become chief campus counsel at the University at California, Davis in September; he also helped manage employment issues for the state attorney general's office. It also includes Micki Callahan, San Francisco's human resources head since 2007 and formerly of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service; and Robert L. Balgenorth, president emeritus of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. Callahan worked at the California Nurses Association and was a union representative for Service Employees International Union - one of the three labor unions representing BART workers in negotiations - while Balgenorth served for four years as business manager and financial secretary for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 441.

Even though the strike has been averted - for now, ferries will run on an enhanced schedule Monday, returning to a regular schedule Tuesday.

Meanwhile, traffic is crawling across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco due to a big rig fire near the Fifth Street exit that closed two lanes of traffic. Shortly before 8 a.m., the commuting website reported that the trip from the East End of Alameda to San Francisco was taking 54 minutes, instead of the usual 20 minutes.


Submitted by Jon Spangler on Mon, Aug 5, 2013

I an very glad that we have averted a BART shutdown--at least for another 7 days. I wish I had a stronger sense that the leaders of BART's unions were seriously interested in reaching an agreement with BART, though.

Union leadership seems more interested in promoting emotionalism, division, and a strike in the press than in actually reaching a constructive agreement. (And I support the hard-working and dedicated BART employees, having been a union member and walked picket lines myself...)