BART unions sue transit agency over contract

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 3, 2013 at 5:56 pm •  Published: December 3, 2013

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit's two largest unions filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the agency, claiming its board of directors broke state law when it approved a contract without a key provision.

Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 filed the suit in Alameda County Superior Court less than two weeks after BART's board approved a new labor deal but stripped a Family Medical Leave Act provision that the unions and the agency's top negotiators signed off on during contentious talks to end a strike in October.

The unions say the lawsuit will not affect train service for the nation's fifth-largest commuter rail service with an average weekday ridership of 400,000, but they're asking the court to force BART to honor the full contract the parties all agreed to. The attorneys say the BART board's vote is unprecedented as it cannot "cherry-pick" which provisions it wants to honor with a "take-it-or-leave it" attitude.

BART officials say the family leave provision had been inadvertently included in the tentative contract due to an error by a temporary employee, which led the board to approve the contract, minus the provision. The transit agency said the provision could cost up to $44 million over four years if one-third of union workers take six-week leaves each year.

"BART continues to point fingers at others and is not taking responsibility for its own actions," said Kerianne Steele, SEIU 1021's attorney. "BART has never offered to us to negotiate over this supposed mistake. Instead, it has approached us by saying 'Take it out, it must come out of the total package agreement, or otherwise we will not approve the contract.'"

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said Tuesday that the agency hasn't seen the lawsuit and believes it is not needed.

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