How BART Contract Negotiations Broke Down

Negotiations appeared to be close. All sides had been behind closed door for more than 24 hours. And then the federal mediator announced it was over. He could not help the parties reach an agreement.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Weary commuters headed to work by boat, bus and car on the first day of the latest strike by BART union workers. Chase Cain and Christie Smith report. (Published Friday, Oct 18, 2013)

    Bay Area Rapid Transit workers walked off the job at 12:01 a.m. Friday after six months of on-again, off-again negotiations fell apart. The move threatens chaos beginning Friday morning for the estimated 400,000 commuters who use the San Francisco Bay Area's largest commuter rail line.

    This is the second BART strike, the nation's fifth biggest commuter line, in four months.

    The ultimate impasse came late Thursday afternoon after a marathon negotiating session that ran more than 24 hours.  

    Both sides had been working toward a deal to end the months-long contract dispute that has left many riders under the repeated threat of a commute-crippling strike.

    Commuters Brace for Imminent BART Strike

    [BAY] Commuters Brace for Imminent BART Strike
    BART workers planned to go on strike at midnight after failed contract negotiations. Jean Elle and Kimberly Tere reports. (Published Thursday, Oct 17, 2013)

    A team of federal mediators who participated in the talks for four days said the parties succeeded in agreeing to a number of significant items, such as salary, healthcare and pension contributions, but were ultimately "unable to bridge the gap'' on the work rules. BART unions had offered to have these rules be put in front of an arbitrator, but management did not want to.

    Federal mediator George Cohen walked out of the meeting and gave this grim announcement.  "Unfortunately, regrettably, we were not able to bring home the result we all want to achieve, which is a voluntary collective bargaining agreement.''

    BART Unions Threaten Midnight Strike

    [BAY] BART Unions Threaten Midnight Strike
    San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit workers may go on strike at midnight unless management agrees to enter into arbitration to resolve a remaining issue, a union leader said Thursday. Jodi Hernandez and Kimberly Tere reports. (Published Thursday, Oct 17, 2013)

    "This is a classic example of a labor dispute that has implications far beyond that of the individual parties,'' said Cohen. 

    Roxanne Sanchez, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said BART and its two largest unions were "extremely close'' to agreement on economic, health care and pension issues. However, she said the parties remained apart on work rule issues.

    RAW VIDEO: Midnight Strike Threat Announcement

    [BAY] RAW VIDEO: Midnight Strike Threat Announcement
    Roxanne Sanchez, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said that workers would go on strike at midnight unless BART officials agree to submit the remaining issue to arbitration. (Published Thursday, Oct 17, 2013)

    PHOTOS: BART Unions Threaten to Strike

    She said the unions suggested taking the remaining issues to arbitration but management refused. Workers would walk off the job at midnight unless BART officials change their mind, Sanchez said.

    BART Trains Keep Running as Strike Called Off Again

    [BAY] BART Trains Keep Running as Strike Called Off Again
    There will be no BART strike and trains will continue to run Thursday, officials announced late Wednesday as marathon negotiations between BART management and two of its unions continue. Christie Smith reports. (Published Thursday, Oct 17, 2013)

    BART General Manager Grace Crunican said the rules that the agency wanted to include in the contract were necessary to help managers run the system efficiently. She urged the union leaders to let their members vote on management's offer by Oct. 27.

    "We hope to continue to work with the unions, but what's critical at this juncture is that unions take this offer to a vote,'' Crunican said.

    BART Strike Called Off Again, Trains Will Run Thursday

    [BAY] BART Strike Called Off Again, Trains Will Run Thursday
    There will be no BART strike and trains will continue to run Thursday, officials announced late Wednesday as marathon negotiations between BART management and two of its unions continue. Terry McSweeney reports. (Published Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013)

    BART Board President Tom Radulovich late Thursday asked the unions to return to the bargaining table. He said they are willing to negotiate wages and benefits if the unions are willing to negotiate workplace rules.

    MORE: BART Strike Resources

    BART Strike Call to Come Before Bedtime: Union

    [BAY] BART Strike Call to Come Before Bedtime: Union
    Thousands of BART commuters were left lingering under a strike threat for a fifth day Wednesday, as marathon negotiations continued between BART management and two of its unions. Cheryl Hurd reports. (Published Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013)

    Commuters have endured seven strike deadlines, sometimes staying up past midnight waiting to hear if the trains will run in the morning.

    BART rider Leatrice Williams said she is tired of the uncertainty during labor negotiations. She since gave up on the train service and started riding the ferry.

    In anticipation of a Friday strike, many commuters began planning for alternative ways to get to where they need to go.

    "It's going to be chaotic coming from the East Bay," said Eddie Manganon, a Fremont resident. "It's going to be torture."

    No BART Strike Wednesday; Negotiations to Continue

    [BAY] No BART Strike Wednesday; Negotiations to Continue
    Federal mediator George Cohen said union leaders and BART management continue to negotiate on reaching a new deal, and that both sides have made progress. Jean Elle reports. (Published Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013)

    The contentious labor talks between BART and unions have dragged on for six months -- a period that has seen a chaotic dayslong strike, a cooling-off period and frazzled commuters wondering if they'll wake up to find the trains aren't running.

    BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the agency has been flooded with calls and emails this week from commuters frustrated that they haven't been given earlier notices.

    BART Trains Still Running As Negotiations Continue

    [BAY] BART Trains Still Running As Negotiations Continue
    BART trains will run throughout Wednesday as the transit agency and its employee unions try to come up with a deal. Christie Smith reports. (Published Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013)

    The key issues during most of the talks had been salaries and worker contributions to their health and pension plans.

    Talks began in April, three months before the June 30 contract expirations, but both sides were far apart. The unions initially asked for 23.2 percent in raises over three years. BART countered with a four-year contract with 1 percent raises contingent on the agency meeting economic goals.

    The unions contended that members made $100 million in concessions when they agreed to a deal in 2009 as BART faced a $310 million deficit. And they said they wanted their members to get their share of a $125 million operating surplus produced through increased ridership.

    RAW VIDEO: Midnight Strike Threat Announcement

    But the transit agency countered that it needed to control costs to help pay for new rail cars and other improvements.

    On Sunday, Crunican presented a "last, best and final offer'' that includes an annual 3 percent raise over four years and requires workers to contribute 4 percent toward their pension and 9.5 percent toward medical benefits.

    The value of BART's proposal is $57 million, Trost said, adding that the agency is looking at ways to incorporate the unions' counterproposals into that cost.

    SEIU Local 1021 executive director Pete Castelli said Monday the parties were between $6 million to $10 million apart.

    Workers represented by the two unions, including more than 2,300 mechanics, custodians, station agents, train operators and clerical staff, now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually, the transit agency said. BART workers currently pay $92 a month for health care and contribute nothing toward their pensions.

    MORE: Board to Investigate AC Transit Labor Dispute

    Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown has stepped in to at least delay a strike by workers for regional bus system Alameda-Contra Costa Transit. Such a strike would leave commuters stranded without a mass transit alternative if a BART strike is underway simultaneously.

    Brown appointed a three-member panel to investigate a strike notice by union workers. The move effectively prevents a strike, which had been threatened for Thursday, for a week. A 60-day cooling-off period in the contract dispute could then be imposed.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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