Capstone Law – Representatives of California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) have likened a California labor lawsuit brought by labor unions to a Hail Mary pass in football. However, the apparent confidence of the BART board in defending itself against union allegations of wrongdoing and bad faith is in stark contrast to the plaintiffs who assert “a deal is a deal,” in accusing the employer of reneging on an agreement.
According the Contra Costa Times (12/3/13), the dispute centers on a clause in a recently negotiated contract that provides for six weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn, or an ill or injured family member – in addition to normal provisions for vacation pay and sick leave.
The BART board, according to the report, is characterizing the paid leave agreement as a clerical error in the contract and voted November 21 – following initial agreement of the proposed contract by both sides – to require that approval of the proposed contract be conditional on a new union vote on a revised contract without the paid leave clause.
The paid leave provisions would saddle the BART transit authority with additional costs, although it would depend on how many union members would take advantage of the perk. The labor contract would cost BART $67 million over four years. The paid leave provision could cost the Authority an additional $6 million, to $44 million over the life of the contract.
BART wants the paid leave provision struck from the contract. The unions are sticking to their guns, saying that the provision was in the original proposed contract that was agreed to by both parties.
The unions involved in this California labor code dispute are Amalgamated Transit and Service Employees International. According to the newspaper report, the unions had previously launched legal action against BART over alleged issues surrounding California and labor law this past June.
When both sides reached a tentative agreement October 21 – an agreement that both unions ratified – it was thought that legal action against the transit authority could come to an end.
That doesn’t appear to be the case now. The unions are seeking, through the courts, to force the employer to accept the terms of the proposed contract as agreed and as ratified by the union membership according to the tenets of California and labor law.
A professor of law is quoted in the report as saying that there is no precedent for an employer, having negotiated a contract and signed off individual tentative agreements, to come back and attempt to back away from a previously agreed-to clause.
While the California labor lawsuit is at play, various members of the bargaining unit noted that an out-of-court settlement might be possible, and that the door has been left open for further negotiations, provided they are meaningful. The report noted that a judge, rather than decide on the legality of the employer’s attempt to back away from an agreed-to provision, could simply order the two sides back to the bargaining table.
The transit authority appears poised to try its luck in court, rather than enter into new talks. “I’m not aware of any case where a member of the judiciary has told an elected board, ‘You have to accept this unratified contract no matter what it costs,’” BART board Vice President Joel Keller said, in a statement to the Contra Costa Times. “And if it is forced upon us, it could result in a fare increase.”
The California labor lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court December 3.
Source: Lawyers and Settlements, G. Gibb.
Post by Capstone Law APC
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
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