Update 4 p.m: BART Board President Tom Radulovich fired off a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown asking that he not grant a cooling-off period should union leaders request one. A 60-day cooling off period would shift the potential for a strike during the slower summer months to September, which is historically one of BART's highest ridership months in the year. Read the full letter at the bottom of the story:
A tremendous majority of BART's two biggest unions have voted to authorize their organization heads to call a strike as early as Monday, if need be. If that happens, you might want to start cashing in those personal days at work.
The two unions, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021, had previously met with BART negotiators on Monday and last Friday, but have yet to resolve issues over their labor contract which is set to expire on June 30.
However, negotiations between the unions and BART reps are scheduled to continue today.
Rick Rice, spokesman for BART, told us that the unions and BART have reached agreement on eight points, and he thinks there is a deal to be made regarding salaries and health care, as well.
"We don't really want to see the Bay Area in traffic Armageddon," said Rice. "Traffic is going to be a nightmare if the trains aren't running."
When we spoke with Antonette Bryant, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, she was headed back to the bargaining table, and rushed off the phone. However, she's been most outspoken regarding BART safety issues, specifically, the concern over violence against both commuters and BART employees. Earlier this week, the unions filed a lawsuit against BART, claiming BART managers were not bargaining in good faith and addressing the crime.
The last time a BART strike occurred was in 1997, when roughly 275,000 people were riding the trains daily. BART currently carries roughly 400,000 riders every day, and while there would be extra bus and ferry service if a strike were to be called, you can bet the Bay Area will be home to one cranky workforce should BART employees walkout.
We'll keep you posted on this very pressing issue.
Update: Here's the letter from BART board members to the governor: