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BART union leaders walk out of negotiation session

June 29, 2013 9:26:14 PM PDT
BART's largest employee union believes a strike is likely as talks have stalled. The union representatives walked away from headquarters without a deal early Saturday evening. If the two sides don't come to an agreement on a new contract by Sunday night's deadline, BART workers will strike.

The two sides still have meetings scheduled for Sunday. But they appear to be far off from an agreement, with a lot of finger-pointing going on.

A BART spokesperson came out of the transit agency's headquarters around 5 p.m. and said BART is negotiating in good faith. In fact, he said they have a proposal in hand that they want to deliver.

"We have a document, an offer ready to make to them, and we will deliver that," BART spokesperson Rick Rice said. "We will also review the document they gave to us and respond to it. We would like to have continued conversations today about it."

That, however, is not how union leaders are characterizing it. They left the talks about 4:30 p.m., saying they're angry that things haven't moved faster.

"The district has kept us waiting for the last 36 hours without a substantial proposal," said Josie Mooney with SEIU Local 1021. "We no longer think that it's fair to keep the public not knowing if there's going to be a strike or no strike, so we're going to be out on the picket line on Monday."

The union's negotiating teams walked out of BART headquarters with their suitcases in hand. They had been prepared to stay all weekend, but insist that they're heading home because BART representatives aren't talking.

BART said it had until 5 p.m. to respond to union demands, which it did at 4:15. But members left before they could even deliver it.

Both sides did meet for a short time face-to-face Saturday. But other than that, everything else has been handled through a mediator.

Union members left, giving the public notice of a strike, while BART reps remained at the headquarters.

"This union will be on strike, effective tomorrow evening," Mooney said. "We will wait 'til the trains are put to bed, we will not strike before the system is safe and sound, and we do this with regret."

"Our proposal increases salaries, lowers the requested participation in pensions, and lowers the requested participation in health care," Rice said.

According to our media partner the San Jose Mercury News, BART's new proposal includes eight percent wage increases over four years, which is double their previous offer of four percent over four years. It is, however, still far away from workers' previous proposal of 23 percent pay increases.

The contract expires Sunday night.

The unions have asked Governor Jerry Brown to intervene and declare a 60 day cooling off period, which would allow both sides to continue negotiating without disrupting service.

But BART officials have asked the governor not to do that, insisting that a strike in 60 days would be even worse, since students would be returning to school then and ridership would be even higher than it is right now.

The last time BART employees staged a strike was in 1997. It lasted six days.

Adding to the possible commuter chaos on Monday is a threatened strike by AC Transit workers in Alameda County. Their contract also expires Sunday night.

The union has called a special membership meeting Sunday afternoon. Bus drivers have authorized a potential strike on Monday.

If drivers do not walk off the job, AC Transit plans to absorb riders stranded by the potential BART strike by providing additional trans-bay service Monday morning.


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