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

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!