BART Strike Begins After Contract Talks Fail

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system workers are on strike after contract negotiations between their unions and management broke down.

The strike has been postponed several times by mutual agreement and intervention from California’s Governor Jerry Brown. However, it appears no intervention will take place this time.

The two sides have been locked in a stalemate over pay and benefits for over 2,000 train drivers and other union workers, reports Reuters. The unions are demanding pay raises to offset contributions to their pensions and other benefits.

While the sides reached an “overall understanding” of economic issues, they are still at odds over workplace rules, according to Roxanne Sanchez, who represents one of the two unions involved in negotiations.

The San Francisco Chronicle notes that Sanchez explained, “We made concessions, but you can only bend so far before you break. This is they way they want to solve the conflict, in a fight, a street fight.” With that in mind, BART workers were slated to walk off the job at 12:01 am PDT.

Unions offered to settle the issues preventing a contract agreement through binding arbitration. However, union officials said that BART management rejected it. Tom Radulovich, president of BART’s board of directors, commented that the unions’ position was that “we’ll take more money but won’t even talk to you about work rules.”

“Work rules” are a clause in the unions’ contract that refers to past practices. To change a past practice, BART’s contracts require a mutual agreement between management and the unions, which is difficult to get. Alicia Trost, a spokeswoman for BART, explained that the past practices prevent the transit agency from making tech changes, including filing reports by email instead of writing them out.

Trost added that it also prevents the transit agency from changing how it schedules workers or adds extra service on holidays. However, union officials believe past practices should be kept.

The BART system is the Bay Area’s most popular form of public transportation. The planned walkout will affect hundreds of thousands of residents who use the rapid transit to commute every day.

[Image by Jon ‘ShakataGaNai’ Davis via Wikimedia Commons]