Weary Bay Area commuters are once again faced with the prospect of waiting up late to learn whether they will be able to ride BART to work in the morning.
It wasn’t until nearly midnight last Thursday that the unions announced they would not go on strike following the end of a 60-day cooling off period.
It was after 10:30 p.m. Sunday when Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant announced that there was still no agreement between BART management and its two biggest unions, but that the unions would wait 24 hours to strike.
Now the unions say that if there is no agreement, a strike will begin at midnight tonight.
As BART General Manager Grace Crunican said Sunday night, “the Bay Area is tired of going to bed at night and not knowing if BART will be open or not” in the morning.
Orinda City Councilman Steve Glazer said the continual threat of a BART strike is disrupting commuters’ lives.
Glazer, who is running for state Assembly in 2014, has been visiting BART stations recently trying to get signatures on a petition to ban transit workers from striking.
He said there is “a lot of bewilderment followed by frustration and then anger” on the part of riders.
Italy native Stefano Frangella, 42, said he is annoyed with the ongoing possibility of a second strike.
He usually takes a train from the Embarcadero BART station to Balboa Park to go to classes at City College of San Francisco.
He called the dispute a nuisance and said he believes “BART workers aren’t treated badly.” He claims that the unions are abusing their power.
Matt Christy, 24, makes a long trek from Modesto via the Dublin/Pleasanton station four days a week to get to classes at the Art Institute of California in San Francisco.
He said he depends on BART to get him into the Bay Area.
“I’m screwed,” he said, adding he feels “definitely helpless” if another strike goes into effect.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said. In the event of a strike, he would have to drive the entire distance—on congested roadways—to the Civic Center campus.
He said he is also angry. He has been checking the BART website every night for updates about labor negotiations and the status of a train stoppage.
“I have no problem with negotiating,” he said, but he said the workers appear to be getting good pay and benefits.
“This shouldn’t be taken so lightly,” he said about the possibility of a strike.
Sylvia Allegretto, co-chair of the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Wage and Employment Dynamics, defended the unions, saying that a disproportionate amount of the public’s frustration is aimed at the workers since “it’s the workers that drive the trains.”
“It’s the workers that get taken to task, not the management,” she said. “It’s not the way it should be.”
Allegretto said many people think the unions are asking for too much, but urged the public to be patient with the bargaining process despite the uncertainty.
She said she finds the anti-worker sentiment surprising, especially coming from other workers who should understand that a strike is the ultimate way to gain bargaining power to improve pay and working conditions.
BART and the two unions have been negotiating since April 1. SEIU Local 1021 represent 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and ATU Local 1555 represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News