BART Management Turns Down 60 Day Cooling Off Period, Would Rather Have Strike Now Than In September

BART’s two biggest labor unions announced today that their members have voted to authorize a strike against the transit agency.

Members of Service Employees International Union Local 1221, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and foreworkers, voted on Tuesday but the results weren’t announced until today.

The votes give union leaders the power to call a strike, but they don’t necessarily mean that one will occur.

The unions’ contracts with BART expire on Sunday, so a strike could potentially begin as soon as Monday morning.

Related: AC Transit Union Says Fleet Can’t Handle BART Strike

Key issues in the talks, which began on April 1, are wages, health care costs, pension contribution costs, work rules and safety.

BART management spokesman Rick Rice called the strike authorization votes “a procedural move” by the unions but he said the two sides are “continuing to negotiate to try to get a deal.”

Rice said contract talks will resume today. He said negotiations were suspended on Tuesday so union members could vote.

John Arantes, the president of the BART chapter of SEIU Local 1021, said in a statement, “We have tried in vain to get BART to have serious conversations about the issues facing workers every day—there are fewer workers, working for less money, in more dangerous conditions.”

Arantes said, “This is an unsafe, unfair situation that can’t be allowed to continue. We don’t want to strike, but BART management seems determined to cause one.”

Antonette Bryant, the president of ATU Local 1555, said, “Our members are under attack and the district refuses to act. All we want is fair compensation and a safe workplace.”

Rice said BART has asked Gov. Jerry Brown not to order a 60-day cooling off period that would delay a strike if an agreement isn’t reached by Sunday.

He said that if a strike is to occur, the transit agency would rather face one now, when ridership is down due to summer vacations, rather than in September, when ridership returns to peak levels.

The last time BART employees staged a strike was in September 1997. The walkout lasted six days before a settlement was finally reached.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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