BART Strike Watch: Unions Give 72-Hour Strike Notice; More Talks Today
Update 10:45 a.m. Friday: BART and its two largest unions are resuming contract talks in Oakland as the clock counts down on a Sunday night strike deadline.
In a sign that political pressure may be building to solve the deadlock between the transit agency and the unions representing train operators, station agents, and other workers, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and California Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern held a joint appearance at City Hall today. Both urged the agency and its workers to settle their dispute and warned a walkout, the second in five weeks, would impose hardships on many Bay Area residents. However, Lee gave no sign that he planned to try to intervene in the dispute.
And in one potentially positive sign, Josie Mooney, a negotiator SEIU Local 1021′s BART chapter, said BART had made new proposals late Thursday. She called the development encouraging but declined to give details, citing a mediator’s gag order on the talks.
Two polls published Friday—one each from KPIX and the business-sponsored Bay Area Council—suggest the public strongly opposes a strike and believes management has made a stronger case in a dispute that centers on pay, pension and benefits.
The impasse came into sharp relief Thursday as the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and the BART chapter of SEIU Local 1021 issued a 72-hour strike notice Thursday. (A third unit, AFSCME Local 3993, which represent 200 BART supervisors, also says it will walk out.) A strike would shut down transit on Monday and force about 200,000 riders to seek alternate transporation.
Unions say they made more than $100 million in concessions during 2009 contract talks, and amid an official blackout on details of negotiations are reportedly seeking a 20 percent pay increase over the next three years. They’re also seeking to limit the amount pay for medical benefits (they currently pay a flat $92 a month for family coverage) and for pensions (currently, workers do not contribute to their pension plan). BART has offered an 8 percent pay raise over four years, an increase that would be offset by contributions to benefits and pensions.
In response to the unions’ 72-hour strike notice, BART spokesman Rick Rice said another strike would only delay the decision-making process.
“We are very disappointed and hope they reconsider their options. A strike only stalls and delays the decisions that need to be made while using our riders as pawns.”
Rice also insisted BART is committed to continue negotiations. “BART is willing to stay at the table for as long as it takes to reach an agreement. Even if there isn’t a deal in place by Sunday night, talks can be extended,” he said. BART management earlier disclosed it has not moved from on its main offers on pay, pensions, and benefits for the past month.
SEIU Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez criticized management for a lack of progress in the negotiations.
“It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in the same situation that we were in 30 days ago, with no real progress made by management to address worker concerns about safety and wage cuts,” she said.
“BART management…continue to attack workers in the press when they should have been finding ways to make BART safe and focusing on reaching a fair agreement.”
Earlier, one union leader said progress had been made on peripheral issues, but other issues, including salaries and benefits, have yet to be resolved.
Regional transportation officials projected in the event of another BART strike, traffic would jump 10 percent over the last shutdown, which started during the Fourth of July weekend when many people were away on vacation. Despite this projection, officials do not plan to offer more alternative buses and trains than they did last time. BART says it will have about 95 charter buses to transport Bay Area commuters should workers strike.
The KPIX poll released today found that by a 2:1 ratio, respondents feel BART has made the stronger case for its position. The SurveyUSA poll of 800 Bay Area adults found that 44 percent of those who said they have been following negotiations felt management had made the better case as opposed to 19 percent who felt the unions’ case is stronger. The Bay Area Council, a business group that estimated that last month’s BART shutdown cost $73 million a day, released a poll of 475 residents of San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties that shows 70 percent of all respondents oppose a strike.
SFO outlines transit options in event of a strike.
Unions give 72-hour strike notice. Details and commute options: http://t.co/Z8IgGR3vVH
— SFBART (@SFBART) August 2, 2013
— 511 Bay Area (@511SFBay) August 2, 2013