A threatened strike by Bay Area Rapid Transit workers has been postponed for at least a day, giving commuters in the San Francisco area hope that a second major transit strike in three months might be avoided. But unions promised that workers will begin striking at midnight Monday night if a deal isn’t be reached before then.
BART has been negotiating for months with the two unions that represent its employees, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021:
Sticking points in the six-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 were also pressing demands to make stations safer, such as better lighting in tunnels, bulletproof glass in agents’ booths and improved restroom access.
Elected officials have tried to help the parties reach an agreement, according to the San Jose Mercury News:
As they did last week, several Democratic state lawmakers from the East Bay arrived at the negotiating headquarters Sunday and were joined by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said there was “reason for optimism” for a deal. Still, the politicians were not actually at the bargaining table and were only meeting individually with officials from either side.
“We want discussions to keep going. We want both sides to get to ‘yes,’” said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland, one of a handful of lawmakers who attended the talks and urged the workers not to strike but were critical of management. “We’ve been heartened that in the past few days they’ve been talking and the gap has narrowed.”
State lawmakers got involved as pressure mounted for them to pass laws banning strikes -- which would be a big blow to unions -- and enact binding arbitration, which would take some power out of management’s hands. Outside politicians had stepped in to help avert past BART strikes over the last few decades but have stayed mostly on the sidelines this time around.
The unions went on strike for 4½ days in July and twice had threatened strikes in August averted by Brown, but now no one could step in to avoid a walkout.
The transit system carries around 200,000 passengers daily, the Mercury News reported.
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