Monday Night BART Strike Update: Walkout Over, Service to Resume
- On News Fix: National Transportation Safety Board investigators say a trainee was at at the controls of the train that struck and killed two workers in Walnut Creek over the weekend.
- The NTSB said the train was moving at 60 to 70 mph when it hit the two workers.
- Guide: During the BART Strike, Here Are Your Transit Options
Update, 11:20 p.m. — More information on the morning commute: Even though BART says trains will begin running at 4 a.m., 511.org is saying that BART charter bus service will still be running in the morning to take up slack as rail service gets back to normal. San Francisco Bay Ferry also will continue running extra boats all day tomorrow for commuters from Oakland, Alameda, and Vallejo. If in doubt, our advice is to check 511.org (or our guide, to the right of this post) for information on commute alternatives tomorrow.
Update, 10:40 p.m. — Trains to run Tuesday morning: While BART officials and others (including this blog) had said BART service would resume Tuesday afternoon, the transit agency has announced that trains will begin running at 4 a.m. BART adds, though, that early-morning service may be limited.
BART service resumes 4am, Tue., Oct. 22 following tentative labor agreement http://t.co/hYqpW5vydk
— SFBART (@SFBART) October 22, 2013
Update, 10:30 p.m. Monday: BART and its unions have announced a tentative settlement in their contract dispute, an agreement that should have trains running again by early Tuesday morning.
John Arantes, president of the BART chapter of SEIU Local 1021, broke the news of the settlement to a crowd of reporters waiting outside the Oakland headquarters of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He apologized to Bay Area residents for the hardship they’ve endured during the strike and declared the settlement a victory for the unions’ insistence on maintaining safety provisions in their contracts.
“We were able to stand up for workers’ rights, safety — and the riders’ safety,” Arantes sadi.
BART General Manager Grace Crunican signaled that the agency had retreated somewhat from its final offer last week, which included a demand for changes in the agency’s work rules as well as a 12 percent pay increase and new pension and medical benefits payments.
“I will simply say that this offer is more than we wanted to pay,” Crunican said. “But it is also a new path in terms of our partnership with workers and helps us deliver the BART service of the future. We compromised to get to this place, as did our union members.”
BART and union representatives were joined by several elected officials — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Assemblymember Bill Quirk and others. Newsom called on BART and the unions to make sure “this is the last time this happens. I think everyone’s fed up, and no one wants to see this ever happen again.”
Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, reminded the gathering of the weekend tragedy in which a BART train with a trainee at the controls struck and killed two workers along the system’s right-of-way near Walnut Creek. “I don’t want it to be forgotten that two lives were lost” during the strike, she said. “I want those families to be remembered, and I want them to know we continue to extend our heartfelt condolences.”
9:57 p.m. Monday: An announcement is about to happen. Officials are gathering and about to address the media. Now there’s a debate about whether the announcement should be inside or outside the building. The reporters win — it will be outside, in front of the assembled mics and cameras.
Update, 9:20 p.m.: While we wait into the night once again for word on BART’s status, a reminder: It will take BART awhile to get trains up and running if the strike is settled tonight. During the July strike, officials announced around 11 p.m. that the strike was being suspended to allow talks to continue for the next 30 days. But BART wasn’t officially open until 3 p.m. the next afternoon, 16 hours after the news broke. With the caveat that I’m not running the trains myself, it’s likely the earliest the trains would be running again would be Tuesday afternoon — again, if the walkout is resolved tonight.
Update, 8:55 p.m. Monday: If you want to follow along live, ABC7′s live video is the way to go. One caveat: Having this on flashes back to last week, when we had night after night of waiting followed by late-night announcements of “we’re still talking, no strike tomorrow.” The “no strike” part sure sounds pretty good about now.
Also, here’s what Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has to say about what to expect tonight:
— Jean Quan (@jeanquan) October 22, 2013
Update, 8:45 p.m. Monday: If you’ve been away from the news for awhile, as I have — I’ve been “commuting” for the last four and a half hours — here’s what you’ve missed: Lots of elected officials have shown up at
Caltrans District 4 Headquarters Metropolitan Transportation Commission headquarters in Oakland as BART and its two biggest unions resumed contract negotiations with federal mediators today. The list includes Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and state Assemblymember Nancy Skinner of Berkeley. Reporter Isabel Angell, transportation correspondent extraordinaire for KQED, KALW and WNYC’s Transportation Nation, says senior officials from SEIU Local 1021 have trooped into the building in the last 15 minutes.
I can also tell you that Gov. Jerry Brown’s in the area — I saw him doing an interview down at the Clay Street ferry landing in Oakland around 5:30 p.m. Not that he’s necessarily directly involved in any of this.
The expectation, in any case: We’re close to an announcement about the resolution of the strike.
Update, 6 p.m., Monday: KQED’s Isabel Angell spoke with BART spokesman Jim Allison about the negotiations that are currently underway: “There are communications … between the district, the mediator and the unions.”
Allison specifically mentioned the work rules, which have been the sticking point in the talks. “It’s what is primarily known as ‘beneficial past practices’ that the district is seeking to change. These are practices that are informal, they’re agreed upon by the manager at the scene and the union member. … We would like more flexibility there — that gif there are things that are inefficient or arcane, that we’re able make sure that we operate more efficiently. The goal here is not to … erode the unions’ position in any way, the goal is to pay for the wage increases.”
Allison gave an example of a beneficial past practice: “System service workers who do the janitorial work at our stations, they cannot clean above where they can reach, standing on the ground. They cannot use ladders… because of a beneficial past practice. So BART has to hire outside contractors to clean above the reach of our system service workers.” Update, 4:35 p.m., Monday: KTVU’s Jana Katsuyama just tweeted that the talks are progressing — “only 2 items unresolved” vs. the 5-6 on Friday.
The Mercury News’ Mike Rosenberg reminds us that even if BART and the unions reach agreement, it’ll take time to get the trains ready to roll:
— Mike Rosenberg (@RosenbergMerc) October 21, 2013
Update, 3:13 p.m. Monday: Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News reports, “An on-again-off-again gag order is back on, as both sides have declined to discuss any details from the table. The remaining issues are salary increases and various work rules for the system’s 2,300 union workers…The unions said they had released a new proposal on Sunday night but details of the offer have been kept under wraps.”
Update, 2:30 p.m. Monday: The Associated Press is reporting that BART and its unions are resuming talks this afternoon, reportedly with an aim of getting trains running for the Tuesday morning commute. Here’s part of the report from AP’s Lisa Leff:
OAKLAND — The San Francisco Bay Area’s main commuter train agency and its unions plan to return to the bargaining table Monday, as a crippling transit strike continues.
Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Rick Rice said BART and the unions will resume negotiations sometime in the afternoon and BART hopes to reach an agreement by 6 p.m. so trains can begin running Tuesday.
Talks had broken down Thursday, and the unions went on strike the following day.
Other reports also suggested the two sides would return to bargaining today. Here’s Michael Cabanatuan in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Officials for BART and its striking unions are reportedly working with a federal mediator Monday to work out a settlement to the four-day-old strike.
Because of the sensitive nature of crafting a deal both sides can live with, few details are available and no one is commenting publicly. Union and management sources say that they were in contact with a federal mediator over the weekend to discuss a possible end to the strike but that no face-to-face meetings had taken place.
A series of small meetings was being arranged Monday afternoon.
On Sunday evening, the unions released a proposal that offered to end the dispute by modifying controversial contract language that BART contends has prevented technological advances and enshrined inefficiencies. The union offer proposed to allow for work rule changes regarding technology but retain rules on safety.
On the same page, Doug Sovern of KCBS:
Breaking: Face-to-face talks resume amid hope for settlement in #BARTStrike; BART says if there’s a deal by 6pm trains will roll tomorrow.
— Doug Sovern (@SovernNation) October 21, 2013
BART strike status as of 11 a.m. Monday: Walkout is in its fourth day. Talks: No new negotiations planned. The BART board canceled an emergency session planned for 3 p.m. The commute: Lots of traffic out there and long lines for all alternate transit. The casual commute: One exception to the misery: the 6:15 a.m. casual carpool from North Berkeley just sailed into the city.
Update, 10 p.m. Sunday: BART’s two biggest unions say they’ve sent the agency’s management a new proposal aimed at ending the the three-day-old strike. The offer was announced in a press release that contained no detail of the offer, but said:
SEIU Local 1021 and ATU Local 1555, the two unions representing the majority of BART workers, this evening delivered yet another offer to BART management aimed at ending the strike and getting the parties back into mediation to finish bargaining a contract.
The new counterproposal allows for the continued use of new technology in the workplace but protects workers from changes in work rules that would lead to unsafe conditions.
At the same time, BART workers say, they will insist on retaining work rules to protect their members from workplace accidents, like the one that occurred yesterday, and that safeguard the riding public during normal revenue hours.
If you’ve been following the story, you know that contract talks under the auspices of federal mediators broke down last Thursday when the unions rejected BART’s demand for sweeping changes in work rules. The principal issue is in the area of “beneficial practices,” a contract provision that bars management from unilaterally changing practices that have been in place without consulting the unions. BART says that’s prevented it from implementing new technology in some instances — a contention the unions challenge.
Tonight’s union message says Saturday’s accident in which a BART train struck and killed two workers illustrates the importance of the work rules:
“The job of a BART worker can be very dangerous. That’s why we receive a lot of training and it’s why there are a lot of work rules,” said Saul Almanza, who trains workers on wayside safety procedures and protocols. “Work rules protect our members from the type of accidents that happened yesterday.”
“Workers should have a say in developing the rules and procedures that keep them safe,” said John Arantes, president of the SEIU 1021 BART Chapter. “But management has proposed a system by which they could change the rules unilaterally and that’s reckless, radical and wrong.”
We haven’t seen any sign that BART has responded to the latest union message. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Cabanatuan reports that SEIU Local 1021 officials say they’ve been in contact with federal mediators in hopes of getting talks restarted.
Update, 6 p.m. Sunday: No indication yet that the two sides are getting back together to talk, so it’s likely at this point that the work stoppage will continue into a fourth day Monday. BART’s board has scheduled a special closed session for 3 p.m. Monday, presumably to discuss the strike.
Update, 2:10 p.m. Saturday: Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, says she’ll submit BART’s final contract offer to a membership vote. But at a rally at BART’s Pittsburg/Bay Point station today, Bryant also predicted that the 900 BART employees in the local will reject the contract with “a resounding no.” The proposal includes a 12 percent pay increase over four years, new pension contributions and increased medical benefit payments and sweeping changes in work rules.
That dispute over work rules, including issues like scheduling, overtime policies and protection for workers who complain about management conduct, scuttled negotiations on Thursday. ATU 1555 and the BART chapter of SEIU Local 1021 both want the work-rules dispute submitted to an outside arbitrator. BART has rejected that suggestion, saying it would only consider submitting the entire agreement to arbitration.
BART management has urged the unions to put its proposal to a vote. Agency officials have also said the offer is retroactive to July 5 — but only if both unions approve it within two weeks (BART General Manager Grace Crunican announced the two-week limit last Sunday, then repeated it when talks broke down on Thursday). Membership of both unions would need to approve the offer to end the dispute.
The ATU’s Bryant said she didn’t know yet when her members will vote on the proposal. As of early Saturday afternoon, there are no new talks planned in the dispute.
Also of note today: A new message from BART’s Crunican about what’s at stake in the strike. She emphasizes again the work rule changes — a subject that neither side said anything about publicly until the last few days — and says the contract battle “is about the future”:
The BART Board has shown great leadership over the last two years defining the investments necessary for an aging system by agreeing to an essential package of upgrades. A new fleet of train cars is under design with active public participation. A new train control system will allow us to run more trains to meet escalating rush hour demands. We need to expand our maintenance facilities to accommodate a new fleet of cars, and new service to San Jose, the Oakland Airport and eastern Contra Costa County. Our stations need upgrades for technology, energy efficiency and safety.
Update: 6:50 p.m. Friday BART management has rejected the unions’ proposal to end the strike tonight at 10 p.m. Spokesman Jim Allison said management will consider arbitration, but “only arbitration of the entire package” and not just of the outstanding work rules. The unions earlier this evening asked that the work rules be submitted to arbitration. (See below.)
Friday PM commute report: On Friday afternoon, traffic maps show jammed roads in San Francisco that lead to eastbound lanes of the Bay Bridge. Cars were backed up for at least 10 blocks along downtown streets; motorists waiting to cross the bridge reported waiting up to 45 minutes. Lines for the charter buses were long. On social media, people complained of commutes that were one or two more hours than usual. The San Francisco Bay Ferry service was also busy.
Note to carpoolers: Dedicated carpool lanes remained relatively clear.
Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said many commuters sought alternative routes, leading to multiple congested corridors such as highways 880, 24 and 37.
Between 5 and 10 a.m. this morning, Bay Area traffic delays increased around 30 percent above normal, according to Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus. He said that the biggest increase was on Highway 80 in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The carpool lane leading up to the Bay Bridge saw around 50 to 100 percent more traffic than a typical Friday, Haus said. Highways 580 and 880 saw delays around twice as high as normal around 7 a.m.
Update: 5:15 p.m. Friday Leaders of Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 have sent a letter to BART General Manager Grace Crunican and the BART board of directors proposing a “Rider First Plan” that could end the strike as early as 10 p.m. tonight. The unions underscore their agreement with management on health care, pensions and wages. On the workplace rules that have proved to be the sticking point, the letter says “we would submit to and accept the results of a final and binding interest arbitration.” Here is the letter:
Mercury News reporter Mike Rosenberg, however, noted that the plan offered by the unions is nothing new:
To recap: #BARTstrike unions said they had plan that could end strike, submit plan, & it is exactly the same plan as they offered yesterday
— Mike Rosenberg (@RosenbergMerc) October 19, 2013
Update: 4:30 p.m. Friday. What happened today: Picketing, and a rally and briefing, as both BART management and the striking union workers sought to explain and clarify their positions.
More than 100 workers and supporters gathered at noon at Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland for a rally to protest what they say are unfair labor practices by management.
The BART workers wore Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 T-shirts. ATU Local 1555 representative and BART train operator Chris Finn spoke at the rally, saying the unions did all they could to avoid a strike.
But at the end of negotiations, he said, BART management “brought up a proposal … to effectively kill unions’ rights to bargain.” Finn also said, “They are intent on causing a strike. They are hoping the public will not support it.”
Also today at BART headquarters in Oakland, General Manager Grace Crunican said that management wants to change work rules for its employees in order to save money and make the transit system operate more efficiently. The unions allege that management derailed contract talks by asking for the work rule changes this week.
But BART officials countered that management has been asking for work rule changes since contract negotiations began in April. The management officials, who didn’t want to be identified, said the changes they are seeking would save tens of millions of dollars a year and help pay for the wage increases BART is offering employees. The savings would also help pay for future improvements in the transit system.
Crunican refuted statements made by union leadership about how negotiations broke down and lead to the strike. She said management agreed to an economic package tied to work rule reforms, and that the unions “grabbed the salary offer, but balked at the work rule changes.” Union leaders, she said, went on to announce a strike Thursday afternoon and “falsely announced an agreement on salary.”
Crunican said BART management would consider having arbitration on an overall salary, health care, pension and work rules package. When announcing strike plans Thursday, SEIU Local 1021 chief negotiator Josie Mooney said the unions offered to go to arbitration over proposed work rule changes, but management refused.
(With contributions from Bay City News.)
Early this morning, KQED’s Scott Shafer asked Nancy Pelosi about her views of the BART strike: “I hope that they can come back to the table to have a fair resolution of this, that is good for the workers and good for management, and is about safety and about respect for the workers, as well,” Pelosi said. See the interview below:
BART’s current status, 11:30 a.m. Friday Striking BART workers are picketing at stations throughout the transit system after marathon contract talks broke down over how to resolve a dispute over work rules. No new talks have been announced.
The commute: Alternate bus and ferry service has been crowded. Some boat passengers at Oakland’s Jack London Square have reported waiting over an hour to get aboard. Traffic has been seriously impacted on all the East Bay approaches to the Bay Bridge.
The backstory (with thanks to The California Report’s Rachael Myrow, who wrote it): BART workers are on strike again for the second time in four months. Despite a reported deal on wages, pensions and benefits, the talks foundered over changes to work rules proposed by management. Union negotiators claim these requests were intended to sink the talks at the last minute.
Pete Castelli is executive director of SEIU Local 1021, which represents more than 1,400 members. He described management’s insistence on extensive changes in work rules as “a poison pill. Trade your paycheck for your rights. That’s where they left us and that’s when it fell apart.”
What work rule changes are they talking about? Union reps say the sticking points are scheduling flexibility and protections for whistle-blowers reporting favoritism, sexual harassment and so on. What does management say? Here’s BART Board President Tom Radulovich: “I believe we’ve offered our unions the best wage and benefit package in the country. But unfortunately we’re saddled with one of the worst sets of work rules in the country, which create a terrific amount of inefficiency. We need to correct that.”