AFSCME votes to accept BART's offer

August 12, 2009 10:08:12 AM PDT
They say "two out of three, ain't bad," but that's not true for BART. On Tuesday, a second BART union approved a contract offer, but one union has already voted it down which means a strike is still a possibility.

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AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which approved BART's contract offer on Tuesday evening.

BART says it's not surprised AFSCME accepted the offer, but is disappointed that ATU's -- the Amalgamated Transit Union -- members rejected the deal. ATU voted to reject BART's offer late Monday night.

AFSCME members overwhelmingly approved the contract with 86 percent voting "yes" at BART's headquarters. SEIU approved the contract on Monday by a margin of three-to-one, but each union has slightly different provisions in its deals.

ATU's members, which includes train operators and station agents, say that they don't want to have a four-year wage freeze in benefits concessions when they think the economy might improve. The ATU says they're headed back to the bargaining table on Wednesday and BART has scheduled a board meeting for Thursday, which could be the first step in trying to stop them from imposing terms of employment -- which basically imposes a contract. ATU says if terms of employment are imposed, that could trigger a strike.

"All along it's not a fair share way of handling the issues and clearly our members are not willing to take something that's not a fair share," says Jesse Hunt, president of ATU Local 1555.

"What we'd like to do, of course, is have a contract. We want to have a contract where everybody negotiates the ground rules which they'll agree to work, but of course they have rejected what the tentative agreement had said and as you know, this is a pretty reasonable offer we believe," says BART's chief spokesperson Linton Johnson.

"Each of the unions has some things that are slightly different than the next union's contract, so it's kind of difficult to stand in someone else's shoes and understand their perspective," says Jean Hamilton from AFSCME Local 3993.

Both SEIU and AFSCME said they will honor ATU's strike if in fact ATU walks out and will not cross the picket line.

BART said under normal conditions, it takes 16 weeks to train a train operator.

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