With less than 72 hours remaining before another potential BART strike on Monday morning, union leaders today urged the transit agency’s board of directors to take a more active role in contract talks.
Leah Berlanga, a negotiator for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, was one of many union members who spoke to BART board members at a special meeting of the directors in Oakland this morning.
“This is not the time to take a back seat,” Berlanga said.
She told the directors to “take this a little more seriously” and said they should come to the ongoing contract talks “so you can see if things are moving.”
Leaders of SEIU Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers, notified BART management on Thursday night that their members will go on strike on Monday morning if an agreement isn’t reached before their contract expires at the end of Sunday.
Berlanga told the board, “We do not want to go on strike – that’s the last resort for us.”
Des Patten, president of the BART professional chapter of SEIU Local 1021, said negotiators have “made progress” on supplemental issues because the unions have had a good dialogue with BART negotiator Bruce Cohen.
But Patten said, “That’s just not happening on the general issues” at the heart of the labor dispute, which are wages, pension contributions, health care contributions and worker safety.
Patten blamed the stalemate on Thomas Hock, BART management’s negotiator on those issues, alleging that Hock doesn’t engage in meaningful dialogue and merely says that he doesn’t like the unions’ contract proposals but doesn’t explain why.
After union members finished speaking during the public comment section of the board’s meeting, directors went into closed session to provide direction to management and its negotiators on how to proceed in contract talks.
The talks were scheduled to resume today after the board meeting and will continue throughout the weekend.
BART employees previously went on strike the morning of July 1, but late on July 4 they agreed to extend their previous contract for 30 days and return to work.
Regional transit officials fear that the four-and-a-half-day strike that snarled local highways and caused commuting headaches for Bay Area residents in July will be repeated if BART and its employees don’t reach an agreement by Sunday night.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News