The Bay Area can expect another day of gridlock on freeways and bridges clogged with commuters who would ordinarily be traveling by train as there was no indication Sunday that striking BART workers would be back on the job Monday.
BART, the nation’s fifth-largest commuter rail system, handles an average of 400,000 boardings on weekdays.
Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Almagamated Transit Union Local 1555, the two unions representing the majority of BART workers, announced Sunday evening that they delivered a new offer to transit agency management aimed at ending the strike and getting the parties back into mediation on a contract. The unions say their counterproposal would allow for continued use of new technology in the workplace while protecting workers from changes in work rules that could lead to unsafe conditions.
BART presented what it called its last and final offer to its unions a week ago but is open to restarting the negotiations if that is what the federal mediator overseeing the process wants, transit agency spokeswoman Alicia Trost said. The system’s directors plan to hold a special closed meeting today, she said.
BART management did not issue a response to the latest union counterproposal as of press time.
“The tragedy has redoubled everyone’s commitment to a quick resolution so we can move forward in a spirit of cooperation to provide service to the Bay Area,” she said of the fatal weekend incident involving two BART workers on East Bay train tracks.
On Saturday, a BART employee and a contractor were struck and killed in Walnut Creek by an out-of-service commuter train performing routine maintenance.
On Sunday, members of one of the unions leading the strike held vigils for the two workers, according to a spokeswoman for SEIU Local 1021.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 canceled picket lines for the day because of the deaths. Its members, among the more than 2,000 BART workers on strike, will resume picketing today, it said on its website.
The strike began Friday after contract talks broke down over pay and workplace rules.
The walkout is expected to snarl traffic in the coming week as the region returns to work.
Antonette Bryant, president of ATU Local 1555, said her union would put the latest contract offer to a vote, but predicted it would be rejected. The vote would not be scheduled until later in the week.
“BART has left us no choice but to reject their final offer,” Bryant said.
SEIU Local 1021 declined to say whether its members would vote on the offer.
The work stoppage is the second this year, after union workers went on strike for 4½ days in July. The unions and BART management were unable to reach a deal in the following months.
Commuters have expressed frustration at the stalemate and experts say the strike will be an economic drag.
The July work stoppage caused between $73 million and $100 million a day in lost productivity for riders, said Rufus Jeffris, a spokesman for the Bay Area Council, which studies the local economy.
Unions announced the latest strike Thursday, and federal mediator George Cohen ended efforts at conciliation, saying there was no more he could do. The two sides have not met since Thursday.
Even with BART service, the Bay Area ranks as the third-most-congested metropolitan area in the nation after Los Angeles and Honolulu, according to roadway traffic software company INRIX Inc.
With BART service still down, other Bay Area transit agencies have made varying degrees of changes to operations to help fill the void. The best option for people is to visit each agency’s website for the most up-to-date information.
A San Francisco soup kitchen is scrambling to cover volunteer shifts this week due to the ongoing BART strike. St. Anthony’s Dining Room, which serves around 3,000 meals a day, said some school groups that had scheduled their volunteer shifts months ago will be unable to attend because they rely on BART to transport their students. Anyone in San Francisco willing to volunteer in the next few days for shifts running from 9:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. daily are being asked to sign up at www.stanthonysf.org/volunteer.
— Bay City News