Debra J. Saunders

What do you call waiting for the end of a partial government shutdown while waiting to see if Congress raises the debt limit while waiting to see if Bay Area Rapid Transit workers strike and Alameda-Contra Costa Transit workers join them? Waiting for the apocalypses? Or: Bargaining bad.

In Washington, a rump group of Republicans preferred a grudge match over governing -- and incurred the public's wrath. In the Bay Area, transit unions have made a similar mistake. By threatening to strike and ruin the commute for 400,000 BART riders, labor leaders have led the public to believe that BART workers think that riders work for BART labor, not the other way around.

The cost to the community is more than $70 million a day. People like me can work at home at least some days, so it's not as much of a hardship, but a strike places huge burdens on working people who don't have a lot of choices. They might not own cars. They have to show up at a restaurant or a hospital to collect a paycheck. Unlike transit workers who elect to strike, they cannot afford to not work.

I don't have to tell readers about public sentiment. Even in the very liberal Bay Area, voters will turn on the union if there is a strike.

Steve Glazer -- political guru to Gov. Jerry Brown, Orinda city councilman and Democratic candidate for state Assembly -- has begun circulating a petition in support of a proposed state law to ban transit workers, including BART, from striking. I've had readers suggest such a bill before, and I have slapped them down for suggesting something so clearly un-gettable from the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature.

If there is a strike, Glazer figures, Sacramento could do the unimaginable -- just as New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago did before. "These are Democratic strongholds, and I'm sure the labor community was as powerful there, if not more powerful. But out of crises can come new opportunities."

This crusade has won Glazer more than his share of enemies within his party, but he told me he acted because no other local politician stepped into the breach. His intent is to save labor leaders from their excesses. Maybe it's helping. So far, BART unions have threatened to strike but wisely refrained from doing so.

Labor's next step, Glazer suggested, might be to assure riders that they won't strike as long as both sides are negotiating. It's time to end the roller coaster for people who want to know how to plan the next day.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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