Unions extend BART talks beyond midnight deadline

BART's two unions say they won't walk off the job Monday to allow one more day of labor talks as a midnight strike deadline passes.
October 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
BART officials said an offer presented to unions Sunday afternoon is $7 million higher than one made Friday, and that it represents the agency's last, best and final offer.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican said the agency is offering employees a 3 percent raise for each year of the four-year contract, retroactive to July 5.

The contract also calls for employees to make a 4 percent pension contribution and 9.5 percent medical contribution.

The latest contract offer also comes with a deadline. BART has given the union two weeks from Sunday to accept, before the deal is taken off the table, spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.

Union leaders dismissed the offer Sunday as "regressive," saying it was lower than previous offers. They extended their previous strike deadline by one day, to midnight Tuesday, but warned that members would strike if BART did not return to the table ready to negotiate.

"We regret that this action needs to be taken but we have done everything we can do to bargain fairly," said Antonette Bryant, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555. "Our members don't want to go on strike, but we are being backed into a corner."

Bryant blasted BART leadership for what she called "dishonesty" and an "obvious lack of respect for the members and for the riding public."

State elected officials including Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, and state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, also criticized BART leadership Sunday evening, but urged both sides to continue negotiating.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said that she was "disappointed" by BART's actions Sunday and wanted talks to continue.

"We want discussions to keep going, we want both sides to get to yes," Skinner said, speaking outside the building where labor talks are taking place.

"We are asking labor to take more time, and we want BART to withdraw that final offer so that the talks can keep going," Skinner said.

Sunday night's angry language marks a shift from the more positive tone of Saturday's talks, which BART officials called "productive." Union and elected officials including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom had expressed optimism earlier in the day that a deal was possible.

"It would be preposterous for both sides at this stage when you're getting this close to put, at risk, your reputation and the economy of the entire region," sad the former San Francisco mayor.

There is also now a small team of mediators here.

George Cohen, who was appointed as head of the federal mediation service by President Barack Obama, arrived here Sunday afternoon. He brought his chief deputy from Washington DC. They're joining the federal mediator who's been overseeing these talks now for months.

For BART riders, it was another stressful Sunday.

"I think the BART thing is just a reflection of what's happening in the government," BART rider Sandra Coleman said. "I mean, it seems to be all the thing to just disagree and see how long we can disagree."

BART rider Frank Baker adds, "You can't reach a deal in 60 days? You got most people can do it in 30. You got most people do it in 10. It's past 60 days. Come on man, get it together!"

Transit workers having the right to strike isn't sitting well with some people. Orinda City Councilman Steven Glazer is one of them.

He was at BART's Rockridge station in Oakland Sunday, trying to persuade riders to sign his petition banning transit strikes. He says the few shouldn't have an impact on the lives of so many.

"If they can't work it out, my feeling is they shouldn't take it out on the riders of the Bay Area," Glazer said. "There's too much at stake for hundreds of thousands of people that use BART every day to have a breakdown at the bargaining table affect all of us."

Glazer's petition is available online.

New York City, Boston, and Chicago are just a few of the major cities that do not allow transit strikes.

BART management began negotiating on April 1 with the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represent which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and ATU Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers.

Workers went on strike for four and a half days at the beginning of July but returned to the bargaining table at the request of Gov. Jerry Brown.

When a strike again seemed imminent, Brown sought a 60-day cooling-off period, which expired last week. The unions announced late Thursday night that they would postpone a potential strike, but issued a 72-hour strike notice.

Transit agencies, commuters prepare for potential strike

Commuters who haven't made alternative plans are searching for a new way to get to work.

BART has chartered 200 buses. That's almost three times the number it had on hand for the July walkout.

They'll run from these nine stations -- El Cerrito, Concord, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, West Oakland, Dublin/Pleasanton, San Leandro, Hayward, and Fremont.

"Last time they went on strike I didn't have to go into work at all that Monday through that Friday," BART rider Mike McCarthy said.

He's among the lucky ones. McCarthy is a programmer. And, just like last time, wont' be going into the office if there's a BART strike.

"It's more convenient in a way," the Berkeley resident said. "But by the end of the week I did want to see my coworkers again."

For those who can't telecommute, San Francisco Bay Ferry will be expanding service. 12 boats will be in operation, instead of the usual eight.

AC Transit will also increase bus service as needed, especially on its transbay lines.

BART riders aren't thrilled about the prospect of taking the bus.

"I've never taken the bus to San Francisco, so we'll see," Berkeley resident Rupa Subramaniam said. "I don't know how that works."

But those who experienced it in July remember long lines, crammed buses, and short tempers.

"That was bad because we were waiting for like an hour for the bus at a time so I guess we'll be taking the bus," Berkeley resident Shay Micole said.

Casual carpool was another popular option last time, and is expected to be again if BART trains stop running.

With so many more cars expected to be on the freeway, car pool lanes will be enforced all day from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Interstates 80, 880 and 680.

All of the uncertainty is too much for Michelle Rousey, whose doctors are in San Francisco.

"I need an MRI and I need an appointment with my pain clinic right now," the Oakland resident said. "But until I know what the settlement is going to be I won't schedule."

If BART workers go on strike, gridlock is expected to be worse than it was during the last strike in July when school was out and many people were on vacation.

Stay with ABC7NEWS.COM for updates on the looming BART strike and information on how to get around if the trains stop running. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and download our news app for the latest news whenever and wherever you want.

Bay City News and ABC7 News reporters Sergio Quintana, Cornell Barnard, and Lilian Kim contributed to this story.

Load Comments