Met Council is wasting time

It must be prepared to do more than bat away union proposals.

Monday’s seven-hour mediation session between striking bus drivers and the Metropolitan Council was a welcome sign of progress, even if that progress was not enough to bring the buses back to the Twin Cities streets. A single marathon bargaining session has surely brought the two sides closer to an agreement than nearly three weeks of public accusations and finger-pointing. Unfortunately, while union officials seem intent on finding a solution, the council has yet to accept that it takes two to compromise.

The outcome Monday should not have been in doubt. Met Council President Peter Bell tipped his hand Saturday when he expressed concern about “expectations the media may be creating” about the upcoming mediation. While most Twin Cities residents – including the 80,000 who regularly ride the bus – were hopeful that mediation might resolve the impasse, Bell was evidently more concerned with laying the groundwork for failed negotiations. Remaining true to their word, Bell and the council wasted little time in dismissing Monday’s offer by union officials.

It is clear council officials and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are in no hurry to resolve this strike. Instead of working to bring the two parties closer together, last week Pawlenty laid out a plan to provide nonprofit agencies with the funding to offer rides for the poor and disabled. That money was rightly rejected by most social services providers, who recognized that efforts should be concentrated on ending the strike rather than making it easier to prolong.

In setting forth his stadium financing recommendations, Pawlenty recently said he does not want to lose the Twins or the Vikings on his watch. It is worth pondering where we might be today if Pawlenty had resolved three weeks ago not to permit a bus strike on his watch.

Sooner rather than later, Pawlenty, Bell and company must realize that ending the strike is impossible if one side does all the giving and the other side does all the taking. The council must be prepared to do more than bat away union proposals.