BART union workers to hold off on strike for at least 24-hours to keep negotiations going

OAKLAND, Calif.

Watch ABC7 News at 11 p.m. for a live report with the latest on the BART negotiations. Local lawmakers say they've asked BART to retract their 'final offer' so that negotiations can continue. Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 have vowed to walk off the job Monday morning if no new labor agreement is reached by midnight.

On Sunday there were signs from union that once chilly negotiations were beginning to thaw.

"I do feel like a number of the supplemental issues are getting resolved here," SEIU representative Josie Mooney said. "I think we're having good discussions of the economics. We haven't reached an agreement yet, but if the parties are open and we are creative I think we can reach an agreement."

ATU representative Antonette Bryant adds, "We are ready. The unions have made significant modifications so that we can get a deal that are still beneficial to our members and still beneficial to the riding public."

But will it be enough to avoid a strike Monday morning?

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who is sitting in on talks, believes a deal is close and can happen Sunday night.

"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," he said.

BART's lead negotiator says they've made a fair offer and spent quite a bit of time negotiating with the unions.

"We just had a face-to-face meeting with them, we're waiting for them to then see what questions or comments they have, and if they have any questions or comments we'll come back and talk to them some more," said Thomas Hock, BART's chief negotiator.

The entire BART management team, including General Manager Grace Crunican, returned to the building just after 7 p.m. It's a signal that the mediators called them back to continue talks with the unions.

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.

The last strike happened during the Fourth of July holiday, so many Bay Area people were on vacation. If a strike happens this week it's expected to be much worse for commuters.

For BART riders, it's another stressful Sunday. Many are left wondering if trains will roll for the Monday commute.

"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.

Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 have vowed to walk off the job Monday morning if no new labor agreement is reached by midnight.

BART workers went on strike for nearly five days in July and were set to do so again Friday when a cooling-off period ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown ended, but they agreed to negotiate through the weekend.

Sticking points in the 6-month-old negotiations include salaries and workers' contributions to their health and pension plans. BART workers currently pay $92 a month for health care and contribute nothing toward their pensions - generous benefits BART management is seeking to curtail.

The unions, which represent 2,375 mechanics, custodians, station agents, train operators and clerical workers, want a raise of nearly 12 percent over three years, while BART has proposed a 10 percent increase over four years. Workers from the two unions now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually, BART said.

Labor leaders also are pressing demands to make stations safer, such as better lighting in tunnels, bulletproof glass in agents' booths and improved restroom access.

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.

The Associated Press and ABC7 News reporters Sergio Quintana, Cornell Barnard, and Lilian Kim contributed to this story.

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