BART Strike: Workers Picketing, Unclear When Talks Will Resume

Residents throughout the Bay Area are waking up to the first BART strike in 16 years this morning after failed labor negotiations between BART management and union officials.

Dozens of workers from the two striking unions – Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 155 – hoisted signs at picket lines forming at BART stations throughout the region early this morning.

SEIU Local 1021 negotiator Leah Berlanga said some 30 workers were picketing at the Civic Center BART Station around 6:30 a.m., holding signs with the initials “ULP,” or unfair labor practices.

Dozens more had gathered in front of Oakland City Hall and at Oakland’s Lake Merritt station, SEIU Local 1021 spokeswoman Cecille Isidro said.

“Some people coming to the stations get frustrated when they see the stations locked and are asking who they can call,” she said. “We direct them to the BART directors – those are the folks that are elected to represent the interests of the riders and the general public in the Bay Area, and those are the folks that have the ultimate responsibility in making sure BART runs and that it runs safely.”

Union officials say that BART managers have failed to present new proposals to meet worker demands to improve safety conditions for station workers and passengers.

Among some of the key safety concerns are lighting in stations and on train tracks, problems with the system’s electrical system and attacks on BART personnel, Verlanga said.

“We also would like a fair benefits package and we’ve been working hard to meet BART halfway,” she said.

“We were hoping last night to get a response, or at least find common ground.”

When the unions did not hear from BART by midnight, representatives announced a strike, she said.

But BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost noted that union officials walked out of negotiation sessions around 8 p.m. Sunday, well before the midnight deadline.

“I know there are good people on both sides of the table trying to reach an agreement and I think reasonable minds are disagreeing on what a fair contract is going to be,” BART spokesman Jim Allison said.
Allison said he did not know when contract talks would resume.

Union representatives are expected to rally at BART stations throughout the day, with some of the largest rallies expected at Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza at 7 a.m. and at noon.

Laura Dixon, Bay City News

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