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BART strike: Health and safety negotiations in the face of Obama Care

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) union workers with SEIU Local 1021 hold signs as they picket in front of the Lake Merritt station
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) union workers with SEIU Local 1021 hold signs as they picket in front of the Lake Merritt station
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

October 12, 2013, after 12 hours of negotiation Friday the two sides agreed to delay talks so each side could meet privately this morning. There are new people at the negotiating table this weekend, including state lawmakers and BART's general manager Grace Crunican. Trost said a new contract offer that BART officials had previously planned to present Friday, the details of which have been withheld at the request of a federal mediator, would be presented Today or at the soonest time possible. Unlike earlier this week, union leaders issued a 72-hour strike notice, clearing the way for a possible Monday morning strike. The union also announced BART board members and Bay Area legislative leaders are now involved and engaged in negotiations. Service Employees International Union Local 1021 represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers, who issued the strike warning.

Bay Area Rapid Transit commuters may be dragging their feet come Monday morning as deliberations continue. Unions and management recently continued discussions past their midnight deadline. 'We believe that these developments can only help bring a resolution to these long, drawn out negotiations,' Sanchez said. 'And for this reason, we will continue bargaining through the weekend.' However the unions haven't let up as they reiterated they will go on strike Monday morning if an agreement is not reached over the weekend.

If no agreement is reached by midnight Sunday, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 said their members would strike on Monday. BART is the nation's 5th largest rail system. Almost 2,300 BART workers could walk off the job Monday Morning which will leave an estimated 500,000 commuters stranded again. There's still no agreement on a new BART labor contract, but as negotiations ended Friday nigh, the transit agency's unions got a few things done which appeared impossible over the previous months.

Agreements have been settled on pension contributions but deliberations over compensation, health care and safety continue even as the Obama Care comes into effect. The unions want a raise of nearly 12 percent over three years while BART has proposed a 10 percent increase over four years. BART said workers from the two unions now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. This is no easy task as the new health care law comes into effect and employers are forced to compensate and attempt to adjust as BART General Manager Grace Crunican and a passel of East Bay politicians were in attendance to help facilitate the negotiations.

'This deadline has serious consequences that neither side wants,' he said. 'It's truly at 12:01 a.m. on Monday - it puts us in uncharted territory.' The strike during the July Fourth holiday week, when many were on vacation, cost the region an estimated $73 million a day, because employees were caught in traffic or unable to make it to work. A second strike could push the Legislature to consider compulsory arbitration or a ban on transportation strikes which neither side wants. State transportation officials released a statement late Thursday saying they’ll expand the hours of high-occupancy vehicle lanes and make similar moves should a strike come, and BART management said they would offer limited free charter bus service across the Bay Bridge.

So come Monday morning commuters could be faced with traffic jams, upset clientele, negative economical impacts or just business as usual. However the top officials would not have attended if resolution wasn't in the air. Monday appears to be hopeful as management and the unions deliberate with high hopes over the weekend.

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