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Fresh Dispute Mars Bay Area Transit Dea

Publication Date: 
November 18, 2013
The Wall Street Journal
Jim Carlton

Professor Willian B. Gould IV weighs in on the possibility of changes being made to the agreement between BART management and union leaders in The Wall Street Journal. 

An unusual dispute threatens to undo a contract agreement between management and labor leaders of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, raising the possibility of another crippling public-transit strike.

The dispute centers on a provision in the contract that allows workers to take up to six weeks of paid family leave. Management says the provision was never agreed to and was left in as a result of a clerical error. Representatives of the two unions, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021, say BART negotiators were fully aware of it.


Labor experts said that, while unusual, it isn't unprecedented for a dispute to arise over the terms of a labor contract after it has been ratified. "There are a number of cases that arise in arbitration over the allegation that something is in the agreement as a result of a mutual mistake," said William B. Gould IV, emeritus professor of law at the Stanford Law School and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.

In the BART case, "there is certainly some kind of screw-up," Mr. Gould added. "The question is really going to be, if they are unable to resolve this through discussion and negotiations, was this a mutual mistake?"