California Governor Jerry Brown has called for a 7-day pause to avert another major strike of Bay Area Rapid Transit workers. The Governor stepped in late Sunday night, just hours before the scheduled 12:01 Monday walkout.

Brown’s order also gives a three-person board one week to investigate the current state of affairs in the negotiations. The board will consider what each side has offered, how committed they’ve been to finding a solution, and whether a longer pause would help. This isn’t the first delay in contract negotiations. After a strike last month, the two unions representing BART workers agreed to a 30-day contract extension, but that stopgap measure expired at midnight on Sunday. If the pause is to be successful, it will need to help both sides bridge the big difference on pay and benefits. Read the rest in Bloomberg Businessweek here.

I applaud Governor Brown for stepping in. As the former Mayor of Oakland, Brown has a lot at stake, concerns over the opening of the new Bay Bridge on Labor Day being just one of them. The bridge collapsed during the World Series in 1989.

But Brown may be less in the pockets of organized labor than people think.  I once saw him dress down union picketers at a Vietnamese Lunar New Year Celebration in Oakland about ten years ago.

I was representing the former Secretary of Labor under President Bush and Brown was the Mayor of Oakland at the time. We both had speaking slots at the event. When then- Mayor Brown saw the picketers attempts to disrupt the event, he quietly left the stage and politely asked them to leave. I recall him saying that he and his staff would meet with them to discuss their concerns but that it wasn’t right to picket a community event where some 1,000 Vietnamese families and friends were preparing for their annual celebration. He handled it perfectly.

California union leaders are often more polarizing figures than their actual members and this appears true of the lead union in the BART fight, the Service Employees International Union.

If Brown’s appointed panel studies the economic impacts of the strike – both to BART users and to the regional economy, they may show less sympathy to the laborers.

The panel includes people who have been part of labor negotiations before.

The panel will be headed by Jacob Appelsmith, a senior adviser to the governor and director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control since 2011. The other members are Micki Callahan, San Francisco’s director of human resources, and Robert Balgenorth, president emeritus of the Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

The last time a cooling-off period was declared to block a BART strike was in 2001.

Read more here in the San Francisco Chronicle.

We’ll see what happens after 7 days. For now, Jerry Brown stepping into the mix may be a good thing to avert another transportation shut-down.

Crossposted on Thoughtful Women