BART workers announce strike

Michael Tao and Tony Zhou/File
If a compromise to renew contracts for AC Transit and BART workers can't be settled by July 1, both transit systems will be shut down due to a strike.

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Following a failed last-minute attempt at negotiations, BART union representatives confirmed on Monday at midnight that there will be a workers’ strike, leaving over 400,000 daily commuters finding alternative means of transportation.

The contract for BART workers was up for renewal on Sunday evening at 11:59 p.m. Around 8:30 p.m., BART union leaders left the bargaining table, rejecting an offer of an 8 percent salary increase over the next four years. A strike by AC Transit workers is also imminent following a preliminary authorization vote. A strike by workers from one company could place a heavy burden on the other.

“The unions have not officially notified us that they are going on strike, but we think our riders need to be prepared for one,” said BART spokesperson Rick Rice.

According to the BART Labor News website, BART union workers are asking for a 23 percent increase in wages over three years as well as the ability to pay into their own pensions. The unions have also requested better security to protect themselves from violence on the job and general improvements such as better lighting on the tracks.

As of Sunday evening, BART had proposed solutions to a number of union demands, including pension reforms and two propositions regarding worker safety.

“BART is presenting an updated proposal on the offers on salaries, requests on pension, requests on benefits,” Rice said. “In addition, employees should start paying for a portion of their pensions.”

AC Transit workers are also negotiating their contract this week. According to Sharon Cornu, a spokesperson for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, AC Transit union workers have voted 97.4 percent in favor of a strike regarding their own negotiations, but the union president has not yet confirmed a strike.

According to Cornu, the BART strike will also put a burden on AC Transit resources, and AC Transit may not have enough buses to accommodate displaced commuters.

Clarence Johnson, a spokesperson for AC Transit confirmed that if AC Transit workers did not strike next week, they would continue their existing bus routes.

Rachel Wilson, a sophomore at University of Michigan who is taking a summer class at UC Berkeley, takes BART from Orinda to Berkeley and is frustrated that the strikes could affect both AC Transit and BART.

“I am probably going to have to catch a ride from one of my parents into class, which will cut into their schedules,” Wilson said. “If the buses and the train go on strike at the same time, I am really in trouble.”

Berkeley residents who use BART or AC Transit can visit 511.org for further information on bus and ferry schedules and on forming carpools.

Executive news editor Shirin Ghaffary contributed to this report.

Contact Sophie Mattson at [email protected]