News Center

Elsewhere Online twitter Facebook SLS Blogs YouTube SLS Channel Linked In SLSNavigator SLS on Flickr

AC Transit Labor Dispute Could Be Deja Vu

Publication Date: 
October 23, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle
Andrew S. Ross

Stanford Law Professor William Gould is quoted on possible solutions to transit strikes in The San Francisco Chronicle. 

"Another strike in the Bay Area is the last thing we need," Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday as he requested a 60-day cooling-off period two days before AC Transit workers were due to strike.

Too right, governor, but you might need to do better than "urge the parties to resolve their differences, keeping the bus-riding public in mind." Like, try again with the binding arbitration idea you ditched in the face of, uh, disinterest, when you floated it by BART management, unions and members of your own party last month.


On Sunday, when the BART strike was in full swing, I received an e-mail from Stanford law Professor William Gould, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, referring to the "unacceptability of transit strikes" and explaining what to do about them. As he repeated in The Chronicle on Wednesday, simply outlawing them isn't the way to go. Could get people's backs up even further.


"This process generally induces each side to be more reasonable in the hope that its final position will be the one selected," wrote Gould, whose "A Primer on American Labor Law" (fifth edition) came out in June.

Last week's strike "confirmed my view that we need to have a final and binding resolution of such disputes, given that the strike was unsuitable, for everyone," Gould said in an interview Wednesday - with one addendum. He suggests that the arbitrator's initial decision be a "first draft," which would allow either party to raise items they see as impractical or inequitable. The arbitrator gets to make the final ruling, but "let's see if they can work the difficulties out and smooth things over," said Gould. "This would encourage more constructive collective bargaining."

I suspect the Brown administration is aware of Gould's idea, though it's not clear if the administration's binding arbitration is as firm as Gould's.