As BART contract talks stretch on, strike enters Day 3 

click to enlarge KATE CONGER/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Kate Conger/The S.F. Examiner

OAKLAND - The BART strike has entered a third day, as contract negotiations between the transit agency and its two largest unions that began early Tuesday evening have stretched into this morning.

BART issued a statement about 9:40 p.m. saying it had no indication from Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 that the strike would end by today.

On Tuesday, state and local elected officials urged the two sides to come to terms on a new labor contract to end the agency's first worker strike since 1997.

Before Tuesday's negotiations began about 6 p.m., BART did announce an agreement with one of its smaller unions, AFSCME Local 3993. That union, which represents mostly middle managers, was not on strike but its members did not come to work to show support for co-workers who were on strike. AFSCME confirmed in a statement that a tentative deal had been reached. No other details were immediately available.

The BART strike began Monday morning following the expiration of the unions' labor agreement.

Negotiations broke off late Sunday, after neither side sweetened offers that had been rejected the previous day. The two sides were far apart on questions of pensions, health care and wage increases. No talks were held Monday.

BART workers were seen entering the State Building in downtown Oakland shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday, pulling suitcases behind them. "All we want," one said, "is a contract."

Then about 2½ hours later, Rick Rice, a spokesman for BART management, came out of the negotiating room to say talks could go on all night.

"We're prepared" for long negotiations, said Rice, who could not say if new deals were on the table.

However, in a statement issued before Tuesday's talks began, SEIU officials said BART's latest offer has a notable "weakness." It was not clear when that offer had been made.

Gov. Jerry Brown sent in two of the state's top mediators,— the chair of the Public Employment Relations Board and the chief of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service, to help broker a compromise Tuesday. Other state mediators were first brought in last month.

Contract negotiations began April 1.

Workers are pushing for a plan that gives them their first raise in five years -- at 5 percent for each of the next three years -- and makes them contribute 1.5 percent of their paychecks toward their pension plans.

Management is pushing a plan that would offer 2 percent raises over the next four years, along with 5 percent contributions toward pensions, according to union officials.

BART workers currently do not contribute to their pensions. They also do not receive Social Security benefits.

The average BART worker earns $79,500, according to BART management, but that figure includes management as well as BART's police force and overtime earnings. Workers also receive health care that covers their families for $95 a month.

Management contends that savings are needed in BART's $401 million in labor costs to fund some of the $6 billion in capital improvements the 41-year-old transit network needs.

Most of the union workers on strike make less than the average, said station agent Guillermo Ruiz, who was among the ATU Local 1555 workers picketing outside the 19th Street BART station Tuesday evening.

Station agents max out at $30.12 per hour, said Ruiz, 56, who has worked for BART for 19 years.

BART's strike is the agency's first since 1997, when trains were stopped for six days. A strike was authorized in 2009, but a contract was signed before work stopped.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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