Commuters Frustrated By Prospect Of Second BART Strike

As morning commuters streamed through turnstiles at San Francisco’s Civic Center BART station this morning, many lamented the possibility of the agency’s workers going on strike Monday for the second time this summer.

BART union leaders gave agency management a 72-hour strike notice Thursday night, leaving only three days left for contract negotiations that so far have been unproductive.

The earlier strike lasted more than four days in early July before both sides agreed to a 30-day contract extension while they continued negotiations.

However, the extension expires Sunday night and bargaining has been strained between BART management and two unions, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers, and Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers.

Another potential strike is frustrating many riders, including Aaron Serber, 30, who commutes every morning from Hayward to Civic Center for his job.

Serber called the train stoppage an “added stressor” and said his commute during the July strike took an hour longer each way.

He said the unions and management need to “get to the table and hammer it out.”

Although he said he is sympathetic to labor groups, he called their pay, pension and medical demands “a little unrealistic.”

A state worker who comes into the city from Orinda every day became angry when talking about the looming strike.

She said her commute during the July strike took four hours and that she plans to take Monday off if another strike occurs.

The woman, who declined to give her name, said the strike holds riders hostage and that the workers “should not be allowed to strike.”

Concord resident Laura Fischer, 60, said during the last strike that she had to wake up at 4 a.m. to get to work in San Francisco.

This time around, Fischer said she doesn’t know how she will get to work, but hopes to catch a seat on a BART-operated bus at the Concord station.

She said the riders are not represented during the contract talks and called the union demands “greedy” and “unrealistic.”

“It’s going to be all on us,” she said, pointing to fellow riders at the station.

Danville resident Megan Miller, who works at University of California Hastings College of the Law, said a strike “puts a real strain on my ability to come in” to work.

Miller, 36, who catches a train every morning at the Walnut Creek BART station, said the 30 days of negotiations should have been long enough for the two sides to come to an agreement.

“There must be some other way other than inconveniencing the entire Bay Area,” Miller said.

She said she is sympathetic to the workers, but she thinks they are adequately compensated.

During a strike, she said both sides could suffer because riders will become frustrated with the impact on them.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said at a City Hall news conference this morning that city officials support the riders.

“Riders need a voice at this table,” Lee said.

He said Bay Area residents, businesses and other transit systems want management and union leaders to reach an agreement.

“This is no longer a matter of inconvenience to the rider, it’s a hardship,” Lee said.

The mayor said he is hopeful that by the Sunday night deadline, a deal can be met.

“We cannot waste any time … we need to get an agreement,” he said.

State Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Marty Morgenstern said Gov. Jerry Brown is concerned about another strike and will be making every possible effort to avert a work stoppage.

“Failure to reach an agreement will be a serious failure,” Morgenstern said.

Although he did not specify what action Brown could take, he said “it’s time for this to end.”

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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  • Justizin

    Although he said he is sympathetic to labor groups, he called their pay, pension and medical demands “a little unrealistic.”

    That’s an odd thing to call out without talking about what the demands are, that the current proposal on the table by BART is an effective $1 raise over 8 years by playing with the balance between benefits and salary to make it look like workers are asking for more.

    BART has budget set aside to replace all cars and more-than-double the number of cars in the next ten years, but it has asked maintenance workers to accept some kind of pay compensation in lieu of appropriate safety measures such as replacing the antiquated decades-old lighting that keeps workers in dark in the tunnels, likely having already lead to one on-the-job death.

    We need to wake up and see that the lopsided balance of available work and housing in the bay area has probably worsened over decades partially due to the convenience that BART offers.

    Fremont to Civic Center? Fremont needs jobs that can pay for people in Fremont, the same way Oakland, El Cerrito, and every other east bay town do, and SF needs places to live that people who work in SF can afford.

    That’s not to say that noone should commute, or try to stretch, or that the nation’s top rated transit system doesn’t provide unprecedented social mobility versus other areas, but living in Fremont to work in SF Civic Center is not social mobility, it’s separatism by the management class, even if with some seemingly unwitting participants.

    This divide creates communities that are largely vacant during the day, with a majority of employed residents leaving, often lamenting their commute and poorly managed home cities, and I believe it’s the underpinning reason for much of the culture of uncontrollable violent crime in the east bay *and* in SF.

  • Justizin

    Although he said he is sympathetic to labor groups, he called their pay, pension and medical demands “a little unrealistic.”

    That’s an odd thing to call out without talking about what the demands are, that the current proposal on the table by BART is an effective $1 raise over 8 years by playing with the balance between benefits and salary to make it look like workers are asking for more.

    BART has budget set aside to replace all cars and more-than-double the number of cars in the next ten years, but it has asked maintenance workers to accept some kind of pay compensation in lieu of appropriate safety measures such as replacing the antiquated decades-old lighting that keeps workers in dark in the tunnels, likely having already lead to one on-the-job death.

    We need to wake up and see that the lopsided balance of available work and housing in the bay area has probably worsened over decades partially due to the convenience that BART offers.

    Fremont to Civic Center? Fremont needs jobs that can pay for people in Fremont, the same way Oakland, El Cerrito, and every other east bay town do, and SF needs places to live that people who work in SF can afford.

    That’s not to say that noone should commute, or try to stretch, or that the nation’s top rated transit system doesn’t provide unprecedented social mobility versus other areas, but living in Fremont to work in SF Civic Center is not social mobility, it’s separatism by the management class, even if with some seemingly unwitting participants.

    This divide creates communities that are largely vacant during the day, with a majority of employed residents leaving, often lamenting their commute and poorly managed home cities, and I believe it’s the underpinning reason for much of the culture of uncontrollable violent crime in the east bay *and* in SF.

  • withak30

    Of course the demands are unrealistic; that is how negotiations work. Based on the reporting over the last month or two, one would think that everyone has to take sides and either accept what the union is demanding or accept what management is offering. The whole point of a negotiation is to end up with something that isn’t what either side wanted originally but is acceptable to both. Both starting positions should be unrealistic and offensive to the other side or else they are doing it wrong.

  • withak30

    Of course the demands are unrealistic; that is how negotiations work. Based on the reporting over the last month or two, one would think that everyone has to take sides and either accept what the union is demanding or accept what management is offering. The whole point of a negotiation is to end up with something that isn’t what either side wanted originally but is acceptable to both. Both starting positions should be unrealistic and offensive to the other side or else they are doing it wrong.