Community leaders spoke out this morning near San Francisco’s 24th Street BART station in support of BART workers embroiled in contentions labor negotiations that could potentially result in a strike as soon as Monday.
Contracts between BART and its five unions expire on Sunday, and negotiations are at a standstill.
State mediators have been called in, and BART’s two largest unions are conducting a strike authorization vote among their members today.
The two unions are Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and foreworkers, and Service Employees International Union Local 1221, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers.
Antonette Bryant, a spokeswoman for ATU Local 1555, said a joint statement will be released Wednesday morning detailing the results of the strike vote.
“We are fighting to get a contract,” Bryant said.
She said, however, that the union hopes to avoid a strike.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the agency is also trying to prevent a strike from happening. She said the unions’ decision to hold a strike authorization vote today has delayed negotiations until Wednesday.
“We think there is a deal to be had,” she said.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is working on putting together a contingency plan in case a strike occurs.
Trost said BART is “not at the point of warning our passengers.”
The MTC has posted an alert on its 511.org website that warns of a possible BART strike as soon as Monday.
The agency is advising commuters to plan ahead and try to work from home, carpool, or telecommute. Heavy traffic and overcrowded public transit systems are likely in the event of a strike, MTC officials said.
At the union news conference in San Francisco this morning, SEIU Local 1021 spokeswoman Leah Berlanga pointed to a lawsuit filed by the two unions in Alameda County Superior Court on Monday morning in which they allege that BART is failing to bargain in good faith over worker safety.
“BART has not addressed safety issues and proposals we put on the table,” Berlanga said.
Among other measures, the unions are demanding improved lighting on the tracks and in the stations.
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said he stands in solidarity with the workers, and highlighted the importance of safety. He underscored the case of BART electrician Robert Rhodes, who was killed while working on the 24th Street station tracks in 2001.
“It’s only appropriate that we ensure their safety on a daily basis,” he said.
Campos called for “reasonable, open, good-faith negotiations.”
The supervisor said he doesn’t want a strike, but that the safety issues need to be resolved before the unions can agree on a contract.
Trost has previously said that union leaders haven’t mentioned safety issues in their own internal communications about the labor talks, instead emphasizing matters such as salaries, benefits and work rules.