BART Strike Averted Again, Bargaining Under Gag Order

Many BART riders say they are losing sleep over the contract negotiations because they are forced to stay up late to see if trains will roll the following work day

There will be no BART strike Wednesday, though negotiations will continue under gag order.

Federal mediator George Cohen said about 11 p.m. Tuesday that union leaders and BART management are making progress.

That brought relief - and a bit of disgust - from early-morning commuters such as Brandolyn Davis, who was taking a train from Oakland early Wednesday.

"You have some divorces that are over quicker than this whole strike thing going on,"  Davis said, referring to the fourth consecutive late-night negotiations over the last week. "This is ridiculous. They need to get it together ASAP."

Davis is one of about 400,000 commuters in the San Francisco Bay Area who use the transit system every day.

Roxanne Sanchez, president of BART's largest union, SEIU Local 1021, released the following statement late Tuesday.

“We truly understand the riders’ frustration, because we share the same frustration that we’ve not yet reached an agreement. But we are encouraged by the progress we’ve achieved, and at the request of the federal mediators, we will continue to bargain. We are prepared to bargain for another day to reach an agreement. There will be no disruption in service on Wednesday.”

Click Here For Resource Guide If BART Does Strike

Sticking points in the 6-month-old negotiations between BART management and the unions include salaries and workers' contributions to their health and pension plans. BART officials confirmed early Tuesday to the Associated Press that some progress has been made but economic issues still need to be hammered out. 

A new labor wrinkle entered the picture when AC Transit announced it was giving a 72-hour notice to strike. The AC transit board asked Gov. Jerry Brown to call a 60-day cooling-off period to prevent workers from walking off the job on Thursday.

Both BART and AC Transit's contracts expired in June. 

Different branches of the same parent union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, are involved in both labor negotiations. While they're about two different contracts, workers for each are pushing for similar benefits. And each local chapter has been monitoring the other's labor situation intently.     
Union officials deny any coordination. Still, the specter of both transit agencies striking at the same time could give leverage if the governor doesn't delay the bus workers strike. 
The BART unions, ATU Local 1555 and the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, had said they would go on strike if they didn't reach a contract deal by midnight Monday after extending stalled negotiations last Thursday and again Sunday night.
BART 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 Sunday afternoon.  BART General Manager Grace Crunican, who is now sitting at the negotiation table, said the unions had two weeks to accept the deal before it would be taken off the table. 
 Workers from the two unions, which represent 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.
Bay City News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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