Mediator Stepping in on BART Dispute

Strike threatens to halt service

BART's three largest unions are calling for help resolving contract talks.

Stalled negotiations could shut down train service next week. The current contracts are set to expire Tuesday and workers say they will strike if an agreement is not reached.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson says the mediator will help.

"We welcome the state mediator coming in." Johnson said. "We're hoping to have a solution by July 1."

The looming strike brings memories from 1997, when BART workers went on a week-long strike. Major traffic jams made the Bay Area commute even unglier than it is on a typical day.

Before we reach the gridlock phase, transit officials are warning BART riders to think of alternative ways to get around.

BART management and union leaders sent out competing press releases Wednesday, indicating that tensions are high just days before the transit's contract with its 2,800 union employees is set to expire.

BART management alleged that two of the transit agency's largest unions have abandoned an offer to freeze employee wages and are now seeking a 3 percent raise over two years.

One of those unions, Local 1555 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, then issued a press release accusing BART executives of leaking details of sensitive negotiations to news media, which the union said is consistent with  management's pattern of "bad faith bargaining" throughout contract talks, which began on April 1.

The bitter exchange between the two sides comes in the wake of votes by two of BART's three biggest unions to authorize a strike if an agreement on a new contract is not reached by the June 30 deadline.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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