BART Unions Split Over Contract

Negotiators from BART will head back to the bargaining table  Wednesday in Oakland with the only one of its unions to reject a proposed  contract as the possibility of a strike looms, a BART spokesman said today.
Negotiations will begin again at 1 p.m. Wednesday between BART and  the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents about 900 train  operators, station agents and power workers, BART spokesman Linton Johnson  said.

American Federation of Local, State and Municipal Employees Union  Local 3993, which represents more than 200 middle managers, voted  overwhelmingly today to approve the contract, joining Service Employees  International Union Local 1021, which approved the contract Monday, according  to AFSCME President Jean E. Hamilton.

That leaves ATU as the only one of the transit agency's unions to  reject the agreement. The union had 406 members vote "no" compared to 224  voting "yes" on the contract, which was tentatively agreed upon between BART  and three unions on July 31 after a lengthy bargaining process that began on  April 1.

BART's board of directors will also hold a special meeting  Thursday after their regular 9 a.m. meeting and will consider adopting terms  and conditions of employment on ATU, which rejected the agreement in their  vote Monday, Johnson said.

The board is "going to look at a number of options, but that is  primarily one of the options that they are going to address," Johnson said.

ATU Local 1555 President Jesse Hunt said that if the board adopts  terms and conditions, "that would certainly precipitate a work action, but  we're doing everything we can to avoid that."

When the strike would start "depends on the circumstances and what  exactly it is they impose, and the length of time they give notice before the  imposition takes effect," Hunt said.

Johnson said "it would be very unfortunate for them to go on  strike and put our riders, who in many cases make often a lot less, out on  the street. So we would hope that those union workers stay at work."

Earlier Monday, members of BART's largest union, voted in favor of  the contract.

SEIU Local 1021, which represents about 1,500 mechanics,  custodians, safety inspectors, clerical employees and track workers, voted to  approve the contract with BART, with 731 "yes" votes and 253 "no" votes.

The third union, AFSCME Local 3993, also voted to approve the  contract with 86 percent voting in favor of it, according to Hamilton.

Johnson had said before the AFSCME Local 3993 vote this afternoon  that he was confident that AFSCME would approve the contract.

Most of them are the number crunchers, so I think they understand  quite frankly what's going on with our budget situation," he said.

The vote leaves ATU as the sole BART union not under contract.  Hunt said the main concern for the union's members is the length of the  contract, which would last four years and includes wage freezes.

"We understand the tough economic situation we all face and that  other jurisdictions and businesses around the state have negotiated contracts  with wage freezes," Hunt said. "But they've been for shorter periods of time  and that's what our members are looking for too."

However, Johnson said that BART had initially agreed on a two-year  contract with ATU, but it was union negotiators who had asked to make it a  four-year deal, and are now calling on a shorter contract again.

"I don't think the board is going to support going back and forth,  back and forth," Johnson said.

Hunt acknowledged that was the case, but said "bargaining is by no  means a one-track process, if Linton was ever in the negotiating room he  might understand that."

Hunt also said there was inequity in the concessions being asked  of the ATU.

He said the union's members "feel that this deal puts an unfair  burden on themselves and their families in already tough economic times and  have instructed us to work out a fair solution with the district."

Johnson said that BART officials believe they have made "a pretty  reasonable offer" to the union.

"This contract doesn't have layoffs, it doesn't cut wages," he  said. "Lots of other places are seeing huge cutbacks in wages and furlough  days ... this is a pretty mild contract compared to others."

The negotiations Wednesday will take place at the site of the  previous contract talks, the historic Breuner Building in downtown Oakland,  which has two addresses: 2201 Broadway and 2201 Valley St.

The previous talks were often marked by acrimony between BART's  management and union negotiators.

The feelings between the two sides were so strong that they  entered the negotiation site by separate entrances, with union negotiators  entering on the Valley Street side of the building and management negotiators  entering on the 22nd Street side, near Broadway.

Hunt said that the union is just "looking to find the mix of  issues that will make an agreement that will ratify."

Hamilton said that if a strike takes place, the AFSCME workers  have been told to not cross the picket lines.

"Union brotherhood above all else," she said.

However, if AFSCME ratifies the agreement, then they will not be  able to walk in the picket lines, she said.

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