Monday Strike Vigil Ends With Agreement to Extend Talks
Our latest BART strike deadline update: Marathon Talks Continue Against Yet Another Strike Deadline
Update, 1:30 p.m. Representatives from BART and its two biggest unions have resumed talks in downtown Oakland. Whether we have to go through another strike deadline drama tonight remains unknown, but union officials say there’s still a midnight strike deadline in place.
Update, 1:40 a.m.: No BART strike Tuesday. We’re packing in our coverage for the night. Reporters are still staking out the Caltrans building in Oakland, but indications are that BART and union negotiators will be in talks for the rest of the night.
Update, 1 a.m.: George Cohen, head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, appears outside Caltrans building right at 1 o’clock. He says productive negotiations have been going on and that he’s authorized to say that talks will continue into the night and that BART service will run as scheduled Tuesday morning.
Here’s Cohen’s full statement, by way of our reporter Alex Emslie:
Under the auspices of our agency the parties have been actively engaged in bargaining. The bargaining has produced some constructive and productive progress. And I’m authorized by the parties to say they are prepared to continue negotiations through the night. And at the request of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and because of all of our concern about the public interests I’m authorized to announce that trains will run tomorrow.
I will not take any questions because at this moment the three of us are going to resume our intense negotiations with the parties. I thank everybody for your willingness to stand out in this beautiful weather, and we will be delighted to report to you as [to] the progress of these negotiations. That is the only statement I will be making.
So there’s one answer for you: You can ride the train to work in the morning. If you’re in any shape to get up.
On a more serious note, it’s simply not known when we’ll get word about a result of tonight’s talks. Many people have brought up the possibility of a “stop-the-clock” scenario that would allow negotiations to continue. Speculating here, but it appears that things began to move when the unions came back to BART with their counterproposal to management’s “last, best and final offer.”
More on this in the morning. And of course, many of you who were up waiting for an announcement felt the 3.2 earthquake that rattled things for a few seconds at 1:07 a.m. Quite a way to end the vigil.
Update, 12:30 a.m.: Lots of people gathered outside the Caltrans building where the talks are going on, including Chris “It’s On Like Donkey Kong” Daly, San Francisco publican and former member supervisor. But still: No sign of an announcement.
— Alex Emslie (@SFNewsReporter) October 15, 2013
Update, 11:59 p.m.: Well, we’re at the deadline. There is a gaggle of media and union members at 111 Grand Avenue, the Caltrans building where the talks are being held. The word informally is that the talks are still going on. I’ll just note that at this moment in July, the union leaders appeared and announced that the strike was beginning. The fact that that hasn’t happened tonight is a good sign (says me).
You can watch the proceedings here: ABC7 Live Video. The audio alone of the gathered crowd is kind of entertaining.
Update, 11:45 p.m.: An announcement of some sort is imminent. One possibility:
— Alex Emslie (@SFNewsReporter) October 15, 2013
Update, 11:30 p.m.: Pete Castelli, who announced about an hour ago that the unions had made a counteroffer to BART’s final offer, wandered out a few minutes ago and made a statement that reporters are trying to decipher: According to our reporter Alex Emslie, he responded to a question about what would happen at midnight by saying, “We’re going to keep bargaining whether we’re out or not.” So, he appears to be raising the possibility, as others have, that the talks may go past midnight without a walkout.
Update, 11 p.m.: Yes, 60 minutes until tonight’s BART strike deadline, our sixth since June 30. And beyond the fact that some sort of talks are going on at the Caltrans District 4 headquarter on Grand Avenue in Oakland, that’s all we know about whether trains will be running in the morning.
Update, 10:25 p.m.: SEIU Local 1021 Executive Director Pete Castelli is saying the unions have made a counteroffer to BART’s “last, best and final offer.”
“It’s comprehensive, it’s movement, and it’s in their hands,” Castelli said. He said BART negotiator are considering it, they’re meeting.” But he also emphasized there is no deal yet and midnight remains a firm strike deadline.
Update, 10 p.m.: Repeating our question from early this afternoon: Will there be a BART strike tonight? There is no firm word yet, but all signs appear to be pointing to a walkout.
We know from Alex Emslie, manning the Negotiation Watch for KQED News, that BART General Manager has joined the talks. “Here to work with the unions” was all she said. But Emslie also says union representatives are making concrete preparations for a walkout — getting signs ready and making preparations to deploy picketers.
And a frequently asked question: What happens at midnight if the unions decide to strike? The answer:
If #BARTstrike, last trains tonight will run to their final destinations. Then mechanics will “put them to bed.”
— Alex Emslie (@SFNewsReporter) October 15, 2013
Update, 8:20 p.m.: OK — here’s a slightly more optimistic view of how the evening may turn out. Chris Finn, an official with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, told reporters in Oakland there’s still a chance a strike could be averted. The caveat: BART management needs to come off its “last, best and final offer.” And as we all know by now, BART management has resisted any suggestion they would do that.
And then there’s this little nugget, publicized by SEIU Local 1021 and retweeted many times in the last hour, including by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Cabanatuan:
— Michael Cabanatuan (@ctuan) October 15, 2013
We don’t know where Hock is tonight — reporters say he is not at the talks. We tracked down links to two different versions of the conference program, here and here. Both indicated that BART’s hired chief negotiator, Thomas Hock, is scheduled to speak tomorrow afternoon on “The Art of Negotiating the Deal.” The program contents describe Hock, who’s drawn unceasing criticism from the labor side of the BART negotiations for several absences during the past three months of talks, as “one of the public transit industry’s foremost labor attorneys, having been involved in labor relations for 40 years.”
Update, 5:40 p.m.: Two new developments, neither of them good if you’re hoping BART avoids a strike:
1. Responding to union criticism that members of BART’s elected board are “hiding out” while management employs hardball tactics with unions, board President Tom Radulovich told reporters that the board authorized yesterday’s “last, best and final” offer to the unions. Radulovich said calls to the transit agency are running 3:1 in favor of the offer.
2.Pete Castelli, executive director of SEIU 1021, said a strike tonight is a virtual certainty. Castelli said he wanted to notify the public a walkout will happen “unless there’s a Hail Mary.”
Update: 4:45 p.m.: Still nothing of substance from the BART labor talks. But here’s something that will make life more complicated for East Bay residents if BART does go on strike: AC Transit confirms it’s been notified that its unionized drivers will strike as early as Thursday night. AC Transit is the main bus system for Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and nearby communities, and it had announced it was adding extra transbay service in case of a BART walkout.
Update 2:55 p.m. Monday: Will there be a BART strike tonight? We don’t know yet. But here’s one sign: Earlier this afternoon, SEIU Local 1021 Executive Director Pete Castelli told KGO-AM that despite tonight’s midnight strike deadline, unions were evaluating the situation “hour by hour.”
Those comments came as BART’s two biggest unions meet with BART representatives in downtown Oakland as that deadline nears. Negotiations hit a wall Sunday when BART General Manager Grace Crunican presented the unions with a “last, best and final” offer — essentially a declaration that the agency was done bargaining (see below for the limited public details of the offer).
- BART presented unions with a “last, best and final offer” at 4 p.m. Sunday.
- Legislators said they had seen progress in the talks and called on BART management to withdraw its final offer so negotiations could continue.
- Unions said they’d postpone a strike for 24 hours, until midnight Monday, to allow talks to go on.
- San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee urged both sides to resolve the dispute without a strike.
The long stalemate in contract negotiations has centered on pay, pensions and health benefits. Although progress has been reported in those areas, SEIU Local 1021 official Pete Castelli suggested last night that the talks had gotten stuck on another subject — “work rules,” which involve details of staffing, hours, and other subjects.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement this morning urging the two sides to settle their dispute without a strike:
“I urge both BART union and management to demonstrate the leadership necessary to get this deal done and end the uncertainty, frustration and cost to Bay Area commuters and the entire region. It is their duty and obligation to reach a fair and responsible agreement that will set BART on a sustainable fiscal path and one that honors workers and the traveling public.
People’s very livelihoods hang in the balance, adding to the additional frustration felt throughout the Bay Area today when both parties failed yesterday to reach an agreement.
BART carries hundreds of thousands of workers, students and families throughout our Bay Area. A BART strike hurts the very people we are obligated to serve. Again, I urge all parties, in the strongest possible terms, to come to an agreement today.”