BART negotiations continue as unions withhold strike threat UPDATED

Another BART strike could cripple the Bay Area.

With the 60-day cooling off period ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown coming to an end on Thursday, raising the specter of another Bay Area Rapid Transit shutdown, BART’s two main unions announced yesterday that they were holding off on calling a strike for now. [UPDATE 10/11: BART unions today issued a 72-hour strike notice, meaning they could strike on Monday].

“We’ve listened to the public and we share their concern about a disruption in service at the end of the cooling-off period.  We do not want to strike. That is why we’re not giving a 72-hour notice at this time, because we want to leave every opportunity open to try to get this deal done. Of course we are keeping all options on the table,” Service Employee International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 said in a joint statement.

Some media reports indicate that there has finally been some progress in the long-stalled negotiations, with a framework on pensions being agreed to, although the two sides still seem far apart on wages, benefits, and the length of the contract.

The unions cast it this way: “To this point of doing everything possible to avoid a strike: over the past 10 days, the unions have moved publicly three times, to BART’s zero times. If this were a score in the baseball playoffs – we, the Oakland A’s would be three and they, the Detroit Tigers would be zero. 

“At this point, if there is a disruption in service at the end of the cooling-off period, it will be for one reason and for one reason alone: our elected BART leadership has not shown leadership.”

BART Board President Tom Radulovich disputed that the concessions have been one-sided, but he said that, “They continue to want to negotiate in the media and we’re not really down with that.”

Asked to characterized where things stand and the prospects for resolving the impasse without another strike, Radulovich said, “We’re still cranking away and trying to get it done...It’s really not up to us whether there’s a strike or not. We just have to get this done.”

Meanwhile, while conservatives clamor to use the situation to get the Democrat-controlled Legislature to ban unions from striking (good luck with that one), Sup. John Avalos held a hearing yesterday at City Hall to examine some of the larger issues at play in the impasse, such as retirement security, that the Guardian covered in our July 9 issue.

Asked how the hearing went, Avalos told the Guardian, “We talked a lot about how BART has been villifying workers in the court of public opinion in an effort to weaken workers’ bargaining power.”