BART directors have rejected a flawed proposal to ban strikes for the transit system's workers in exchange for binding arbitration -- but for the wrong reason.
The proposal, by Director Joel Keller, of Brentwood, didn't go far enough. His inclusion of binding arbitration to try to make it politically acceptable to labor unions would actually make matters worse.
But most BART directors dismissed the proposal because they think it goes too far. They won't entertain the notion of any strike ban, with or without arbitration. They depend on labor unions for political support and remain unwilling to challenge them.
What's needed is a simple strike ban, full transparency of labor negotiations and election of BART directors who represent constituents rather than labor.
A ban on strikes by essential transit workers would place them under the same restrictions as police and firefighters, who in most California cities do not enjoy binding arbitration. Adding binding arbitration would take decision-making away from voters' elected representatives and turn it over to unaccountable attorneys or retired judges who make money trying to settle labor disputes.
Arbitrators don't want to alienate union leaders who could blackball them from hearing future disputes. Moreover, striving to find resolution, they often advocate short-term deals that irresponsibly push costs into the future.
Keller and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, deserve credit for trying to change the negotiation paradigm. BART labor unions can now gridlock the region's roadways by striking and currently wield far too much political influence.
Nowhere is that more evident than with the transit board's hypocrite-in-chief, Director James Fang of San Francisco, who joined strikers on the picket line last summer. He opposed Keller's proposal by claiming he objected to the proposed binding arbitration.
"It's slapping me in the face because it's saying you can't do your job to get this solved, so you need third-party arbitration," Fang said. Right. As if he would support a strike ban without binding arbitration.
In fact, Fang and his fellow directors haven't done their job. They sold out riders and taxpayers last year by fattening their offer 48 percent in the final weekend of negotiations.
As dissident Director Zakhary Mallett, of El Sobrante, sagely put it, the board needs to develop some backbone. "The best solution is to hold strong and not cave in."
That will happen only under pressure from an informed public. That's why all government agencies should sunshine collective bargaining, like the Orange County city of Costa Mesa does. We deserve to know when our representatives are about to give away the store. We deserve to know before it's too late.