BART union leaders walk out of negotiations with transit agency's management


A lot of finger pointing is going on.

A BART spokesperson came out of the transit agency's headquarters around 5 p.m. and said BART is negotiating in good faith. In fact, he said they have a proposal in hand that they want to deliver.

That, however, is not how union leaders are characterizing it. They left the talks about 4:30 p.m., saying they're angry that things haven't moved faster.

The union's negotiating teams walked out of BART headquarters with their suitcases in hand. They left to go home. They were prepared to stay all weekend, but insist that BART representatives aren't talking.

BART said it had until 5 p.m. to respond to union demands, which it did at 4:15. But members left before they could even deliver it.

Both sides did meet for a short time face-to-face Saturday. But other than that, everything else has been handled through a mediator.

Union members left, giving the public notice of a strike, while BART reps are still at the headquarters.

"This union will be on strike, effective tomorrow evening," said Josie Mooney with SEIU Local 1021. "We will wait 'til the trains are put to bed, we will not strike before the system is safe and sound, and we do this with regret."

"Our proposal increases salaries, lowers the requested participation in pensions, and lowers the requested participation in health care," BART spokesperson Rick Rice said.

The contract expires Sunday night.

The unions have asked Governor Jerry Brown to intervene and declare a 60 day cooling off period, which would allow both sides to continue negotiating without disrupting service.

But BART officials have asked the governor not to do that, insisting that a strike in 60 days would be even worse, since students would be returning to school then and ridership would be even higher than it is right now.

The last time BART employees staged a strike was in 1997. It lasted six days.

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