Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dysfunctional BART labor negotiations

I guess I don't understand public agency labor negotiations. At Thursday's BART meeting, a long line of BART union representatives complained that BART had yet to bring a real offer to the table. Apparently a one-page offer cannot be considered an offer. The BART board didn't appear to have too much to say in response, but in the press, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said that the unions had not responded to that offer, however brief it was. The details of negotiations aren't made public. Maybe they should be. (I know, that would probably require a complete revision of state labor law.) Then the public could see what's in BART's offer, and decide for themselves if labor was being unreasonable not to respond.

There's a lot I don't know about labor negotiations. It could be that BART's high-paid negotiator is trying to get the union to agree to a group of general principles in hopes that through a series of such agreements, the unions end up making large concessions. Certainly the unions are still sore about things they say they conceded years ago that ended up badly for them. But times are tough in an unprecedented way, so is it really fair for the unions to bring up slights from long ago?