The SEIU represents 1,500 /*BART*/ mechanics, maintenance and clerical workers.
"We want the world to know that BART is the best district, not because of Dorothy Dugger, not because of the board of directors, but because of you who clean the trains, people who clean the stations, the clerical people, and the services you provide," said Damita Davis-Howard to a crowd of SEIU members.
The unions lashed out at BART management Thursday, saying they have been unfairly characterized as highly compensated workers who are willing to walk out and abandon the 360,000 riders who rely on BART every day.
"We want stability for the workers, we want to provide services for the workers, we are public employees. We are not greedy private sector workers, we are here to service the public," said Davis-Howard.
BART says it has to close a $250 million budget deficit. It wants all employees, union and non-union, to pay more in health and pension benefits for a $100 million savings. The BART board asked the governor to deny a cooling off request from the unions, should there be one, because the fiscal year begins July 1, 2009 and that's also when riders start paying higher fares.
"We want them to participate in the solution. The riders are doing that, management is doing that, and we need the union leadership to participate in the solution and that is eliminating this $250 million deficit," said BART's Chief Spokesman Linton Johnson.
"We are willing to talk about some of those concessions, but we're also interested in helping the district find some money. They always have money in other areas," said SEIU chapter president Lisa Isler.
The SEIU says they will have the votes counted sometime late on Thursday evening. It is expected the membership will authorize a strike. The contracts expire on Tuesday, June 30, 2009.
BART says extending the current contract and continuing negotiations past the June 30th deadline is expensive.