BART and union officials announced that wage negotiations resumed at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, following BART employees’ strike beginning on Monday, which delayed thousands of Bay Area commuters.
As of Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., the strike is set to continue into Wednesday, with no indication of when negotiations will be resolved. In a press release Monday, BART called on union leaders to end the strike, while AC transit officials said they do not expect a strike on Wednesday.
“This strike is not necessary and we call on union leaders to end it and join us at the table so the Bay Area can get moving again,” said BART spokesperson Rick Rice in a press release on Monday. “We are prepared to negotiate the significantly improved proposal we delivered on Saturday.”
Negotiations have been ongoing for several months, with both parties unable to reach an agreement before employee contracts expired on Sunday night.
The inability to reach an agreement comes from the opposing parties’ inability to reach a consensus on what should be prioritized, with BART focusing on employees’ increasing pension and medical costs and unions focusing on employee safety.
Union leaders feel that their employees should be compensated for having stagnant wages since 2009. Another grievance that unions have is the lack of safety for their employees, citing the documented increased violence faced by BART employees over the last year.
Two of the unions that represent most of BART employees, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021, filed an unfair labor practices lawsuit against BART on June 24 under the allegation that BART management was unwilling to negotiate over employees’ safety.
Carlos Rivera, a spokesperson for SEIU 1021, said that he expected negotiations to be slow, which is why he thought it was necessary to warn commuters.
“We sincerely apologize for inconvenience to any Bay Area residents,” Rivera said on Monday. “We tried to make sure people knew ahead of time of alternate ways of travelling. We gave a 72-hour notice so that people could start making alternative plans.”
Because of the BART strike, many commuters found themselves trying to navigate the AC Transit system for the first time. Some bus lines, such as the F line or transbay line, had twice as many passengers as normal on Monday, according to Clarence Johnson, a spokesperson for AC Transit.
In a press release on Tuesday, AC Transit officials called ongoing negotiations with ATU a signal that they will be “providing bus service as usual” on Wednesday.
Extra AC Transit lines and early-morning shuttles were offered from the most congested areas, such as downtown Oakland and routes into San Francisco. AC Transit also ran six more trips than normal of the F line to account for additional passengers.
On Monday, Caltrans officials urged commuters to find alternate ways of getting to their destinations. There was heavy traffic all day on many of the major highways, with officials estimating an extra 60,000 vehicles on the road today.
Despite efforts to help commuters get to work, many found themselves either late or having to stay with a friend to avoid a difficult morning commute.
“It was just not knowing how crazy things would be today,” said Helen Jentzen, a UC Berkeley library employee. “I’d much rather stay overnight and make sure I have a way to get to work Monday morning as opposed to have to deal with any kind of craziness.”
However, many passengers who rely on BART to get to work found it unfair that they had to suffer due to the ongoing negotiations between BART management and its employees.
“My impression of the strike is that the labor contract is up, and the union is taking advantage of that by asking for higher wages,” said Suzi Ferguson, a UC Berkeley alumna who works at One Medical Group in San Francisco. “It’s a shame that they are holding a huge portion of the workforce hostage for this demand, especially in a time when jobs are not plentiful.”
Contact Jose Hernandez at [email protected]al.org.