The weekend deal between BART and union members eased commuters’ worries over a traffic-snarling strike, but last week’s chain of events can also be viewed as the lousy economy playing out in labor and employment law.
The BART board voted last week to unilaterally impose terms and conditions for employment to push the union back to the bargaining table. That approach “hasn’t been used that often until this bad economy,” said M. Carol Stevens, an attorney for BART. “Lawyers are going back to look at it.” Stevens, a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen, has done work for BART for at least a decade and had been managing partner of the public-sector labor and employment boutique Kay & Stevens before it merged with Burke, Williams last year.
The two sides came to a tentative agreement Sunday evening. Margot Rosenberg, a Leonard Carder lawyer who represents the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, agreed that the imposition of terms has become more common in the past six months. The two lawyers just disagree about whether it was “legally or tactically appropriate” in this case, she said.
Intense political pressure and media scrutiny were being applied to both sides to avert a strike, making for a strange experience, Rosenberg said. “The negotiating is so unglamorous. You sit in a windowless room for hour after hour after hour. It’s very tedious and painstaking. And then to have that kind of attention — it was pretty surreal.”
— Kate Moser