Public pressure mounts over BART strike

August 16, 2009 12:43:24 PM PDT
Monday's scheduled BART strike is still on, but there was some movement in the negotiations Saturday. For the first time in days the two sides spoke to each other.

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Members in both camps said there was some movement, but admitted they have a lot of work to do. They broke talks around 7:00 Saturday night so they could go to their own offices and work on the language of what they had discussed.

They are working against a dreaded deadline as the strike is scheduled to start in less than 24 hours. It would be tough for BART workers to not feel the pressure. The headlines loudly announce how riders feel about a potential strike. BART passengers are not too shy when it comes to this topic.

"I don't want to be stranded. I'm pretty angry they need to get it together," BART passenger Angela Royal told ABC7.

Both sides decided to meet at the bargaining table for the first time since Wednesday.

"Clearly the impacts of this are enormous. The parties recognize we need to do everything we can to get this worked out," said ATU Local 1555 President Jesse Hunt.

But, the blame game was still going strong even as the two sides headed into the meeting.

"There's nothing that says they have to strike. If they strike, it's all on them. We're asking them to stay," said BART Chief Spokesman Linton Johnson.

"It was the BART's management's decision to end negotiations and declare an impasse, and impose terms and conditions that forced our action," countered Hunt.

It is no wonder there is little hope out there that this will be resolved by Monday.

"I bet they'll shut it down for a day so people can feel the affect that BART is important," opined Ivan Butler of Castro Valley.

"I'm optimistic about it. I still don't fully believe they are going to strike and there will be no BART," said Bryce Ballinger of Oakland.

"My gut tells me they're going on strike, and so does everybody else. You know, we didn't need this right now. We really don't need this," said Royal.

Both sides agree. They know times are tough. That is why BART wants the cut and why the union members say they cannot give up too much. They spent six hours discussing things Saturday and planned to meet again Sunday.

"There's certainly some work to do still, but there was progress. As long as we're at the table we believe progress can be made," Hunt said.

BART wants to cut $100 million in labor costs and wants $38 million of that to come from this union. The ATU members do not think that is fair. Two other BART unions accepted a contract from management last week, but have said they will respect this union's picket lines.

The strike is scheduled for 12:01 Monday morning.

LINK: Information on transit alternatives in the event of a BART strike

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