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BART contract negotiations drag on

July 23, 2009 7:10:24 PM PDT
BART and its labor unions are still at the negotiating table, trying to reach an agreement to keep the trains running. But now there are signs that point to a growing sense of animosity by the riding public.

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BART maintenance worker Matt Marvel is a member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU). He has worked at BART for 10 years. As the contract negotiations drag on, he worries about any outcome that might hurt his family.

"I'm holding up good," said Marvel. "It's a little bit hard, I've got two little ones, so that's always in the back of my mind, providing and everything."

At the BART board meeting Thursday morning, one union worker tearfully told the directors that riders were being hostile toward her and she believes it is because of how workers have been portrayed by management during these tough contract negotiations.

"We think that any rider out there that wants to antagonize our employees, that's a despicable action," said BART spokesperson Linton Johnson.

BART wants to change work rules and is asking its workers to start paying more of their benefits costs.

Carla Buggs rides BART every day. She thinks BART employees are out of touch with the economy.

"I work for an insurance company," she said. "I pay more than them for my benefits. It would be a wise move to just pay the extra money and keep it moving."

Currently negotiations are only scheduled to continue through next Thursday. To go past that date would require BART to allow the union workers involved in negotiations to continue that instead of doing their regular jobs.

BART says without an agreement by then, it might have to impose terms and conditions of employment without the unions' consent, which would likely trigger a strike.

"That is always a tool at our disposal, as is layoffs, as is continuing to negotiate," said Johnson. "But our goal is essentially to get to a settlement."

The unions have agreed to give BART and riders 72-hour notice if they plan to strike.

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