BART, unions return to bargaining table


Governor Jerry Brown is requesting a judge order a 60-day cooling off period on Sunday if an agreement isn't reached by then. The union is against the move, but the court reports no one has filed papers opposing it.

The San Francisco Superior Court judge does have the authority to rule against the request, though that is considered unlikely. The judge's decision is expected Sunday morning.

Until then, negotiations continue this weekend.

There was slight progress reported Saturday. The 60-day cooling off period was certainly putting pressure on both sides to reach a deal. One union says a strike may not happen now, but it may happen later.

Both sides in the BART talks returned to bargaining Saturday, knowing another deadline clock is ticking down.

"I think this is the last day to really be able to reach an agreement," SEIU member John Arantes said. "If we don't do it today, I think it will then be harder for the parties to come to an agreement."

Gov. Brown will seek a 60-day cooling off period if there's no settlement by Sunday night in the BART talks. It's something unions don't want. BART's chief negotiator Thomas Hock admits he doesn't either.

"They want a settlement," Hock said. "I don't think anyone wants to come back here. I mean, we're not nuts. Do you want to come back here in 55 days? 50 days? I mean, come on, get real. I mean, everyone wants to get this thing done. This isn't fun sitting up there every day for eight, 10, 12 hours."

"We want a deal, I can't say that enough," ATU President Antonette Bryant said.

Bryant says both sides are talking but still at odds over pay, pension, and health care contributions. She says a strike option may be off the table for now, but could still be an option later.

"At the end of that 60 days, if there's no deal, there will be a strike," Bryant said. "And there's nothing the governor can do about that."

BART riders hope that worst case scenario never happens.

"I'm usually pro labor, but I'm so pissed at BART employees at this point," BART rider Tony Berger said. "I feel they are just way overpaid for what they do, and enough is enough."

"What does it cost to raise a family?" BART rider Sharon Moore asked. "You know, what does it cost? And, that's what you need to pay people. And you need to stop acting like it's like they're asking for blood from a stone."

Some riders feel caught in another game of BART limbo with no end in sight.

Unions say a strike is something they definitely do not want.

Sunday's hearing begins at 9 a.m. at San Francisco Superior Court.

If a deal is not reached by midnight Sunday, that 60-day cooling off period will likely happen.

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