Plan your commute: BART workers go on strike 

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OAKLAND — Sit tight, Bay Area: Your commute just got a lot longer.

BART workers are on strike.

The transit agency’s 400,000 daily passengers will be packed onto freeways and piled into buses and ferries today — or avoiding a much-longer commute altogether — as BART’s five labor unions went on strike effective at midnight Sunday.

The work stoppage comes after BART management and the agency’s biggest labor unions failed to come to terms over a new contract. The old contract expired at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Negotiations broke off about 8 p.m. Sunday, with neither unions nor management willing to budge from rejected proposals issued Saturday.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 — which have not had a raise in four years — pushed for a plan that would give workers a 4.5 percent raise over each of the next three years, and require workers to contribute 1.5 percent of their paychecks to their pensions.

BART’s plan called for 2 percent raises in each of the next four years and 5 percent employee contributions to pensions, according to the unions. BART workers, who do not receive Social Security, do not currently contribute to their pensions out of their paychecks.

Management’s plan amounted to a pay increase of “$1 per year for the life of the contract,” said Antonette Bryant, president of ATU Local 1555, which represents train operators and station agents.

“They had nothing else for us,” said Bryant, whose union called the offer “insulting.”

A strike seemed all but certain about 8 p.m. Sunday when state-appointed mediators brought in to broker a deal left the State Building in downtown Oakland. Union representatives left shortly thereafter, followed by BART management.

“We didn’t want to see it go down like this, ticking down to the wire,” BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said as BART management prepared to leave negotiations in downtown Oakland, where talks had resumed Sunday after several days of little progress.

Both sides accused the other of breaking off talks Sunday, though in the hours before midnight, each insisted they were ready to resume negotiating.

BART service shut down with the culmination of regular Sunday service early today. The work stoppage is the agency’s first since September 1997, when a strike lasted six days.

Workers voted to authorize a strike in 2009 but stayed on the job after agreeing to give back more than $100 million of compensation during the height of the worldwide economic crisis.

BART’s annual budget is $1.6 billion, $403 million of which goes to worker pay and benefits. The agency has about $6 billion of needed capital improvements — new construction and new rail cars — over the next decade that to date have no funding source.

Unions point out that BART ridership and revenue are at all-time highs, and that after four years of no raises in an increasingly costly Bay Area, workers are due for pay bumps in addition to their benefits package.

Most of BART’s funding comes from passenger fares. Most funding for capital improvements comes from federal grants or bond sales.

Negotiations began April 1 and continued without much progress until June. Workers on Tuesday voted to authorize a strike. They gave notice late Thursday that today would be the first day without BART service.

Gov. Jerry Brown had the ability to order a 60-day cooling-off period — which would have delayed a possible strike until September — but declined to do so over the weekend, instead requesting negotiations continue.

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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