BART Strike Ends with Tentative Labor Deal

October 22, 2013

Go crazy, Bay Area: BART trains will start rolling again -- this time for good.

After more than six months of talks, two crippling rail shutdowns and a half-dozen more threatened strikes, management and union negotiators finally reached a deal Monday night.

BART said it would be able to restart limited train service Tuesday morning after 2,300 union workers get back on the job, fire up dormant systems and run test trains to ensure they are safe. Reduced service on each line was expected to start at 4 a.m., when trains usually begin operating, with BART hoping its full schedule will be intact by the afternoon commute.

The announcement just after 10 p.m. ended the strike after 3 days and 22 hours -- the exact same length as the first strike in July.

Details of the settlement were not immediately released. The BART Board of Directors and the members of the agency's two large unions still need to approve the tentative contract agreement.

"This offer is more than we wanted to pay," BART General Manager Grace Crunican said. "We compromised to get to this place, as did our union members."

In a joint press conference with unions, management and local politicians, workers apologized for the strike but said the deal would keep important work rules intact for employees.

"We will go back to work and continue our efforts to keep the Bay Area moving," said Antonette Bryant, president of the local Amalgamated Transit Union.

Appropriately, before the deal was announced, commuters had to sweat out one last late-night showdown.

Monday marked the 10th strike showdown since late June that came down to the last minute, and the seventh since the 60-day cooling-off period ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown ended on Oct. 10. In the last two weeks, the announcements on whether a strike will take place the following morning came after 10 p.m. each night. That infuriated commuters who grew just as angry over losing sleep keeping up with the drama as they did with the stalled trains and heavy traffic.

The labor dispute also struck a chord with many in the Bay Area who quickly took sides.

In one camp were many who thought the workers were overpaid and should just be happy for what they have. BART union workers already make an average gross pay of $76,500 -- the best among California transit agencies -- do not contribute toward their pensions and pay $92 monthly for health care. The new contract is expected to give workers at least a 12 percent total raise, start a 4 percent pension contribution and increase the medical premiums by about $50 a month.

On the other side were Bay Area residents who sympathized with workers who had not received a meaningful raise in four years. BART employees were adamant that they were fighting not just for themselves but for all blue-collar union workers who risked seeing their jobs weakened or lost altogether to new technologies.

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