Workers for San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system, the fifth largest rail transit system in the United States, went on strike at 12:01 a.m. Friday, condemning 400,000 commuters to an extra-long trip to work on Friday morning via bus, cab or bike.
It’s the second BART strike this year as six months of contract negotiations have failed to produce a deal that satisfies both BART managers and two unions representing 2,400 train operators, station agents, mechanics and other transit employees.
The unions said talks fell apart on Thursday because they could not agree on changes to work rules, such as shift lengths and employees’ fixed work schedules. BART wants the freedom to schedule workers as needed; currently, it requires union approval to change schedules in order to add extra holiday service, for example.
Tom Radulovich, president of BART's Board of Directors, said the unions’ stance was that "we'll take more money but won't even talk to you about work rules.” He added, “We need to be able to manage the district."
BART General Manager Grace Crunican said that its “last, best and final offer” remains on the table. It would provide BART workers – average annual income: $70,000 – with a 3 percent annual salary increase while increasing employee contributions to health benefits – currently $92 a month – by 9.5 percent over four years.
"I slept at my job so I can be here today," Victor Fematt, who lives outside the city and works in real estate in downtown San Francisco told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I had to be here first thing in the morning." During the last BART strike, he spent $400 renting a car, but decided that it was too expensive to do again.