BART screeches to halt for Monday commute

Waking up and going to work is expected to turn into a living nightmare for thousands of Bay Area commuters who usually rely on BART to get to their jobs.

Despite a marathon of weekend negotiations between BART managers and union officials, BART workers went on strike early Monday morning.

The strike by train operators, station agents, mechanics, maintenance workers and others represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 comes as both sides tried — but failed — to hammer out a last-minute deal before the contracts for both unions expired at midnight.

Management and labor remain at odds over salaries, health care and other issues. BART officials said Sunday they had improved on the one percent raise they had initially offered, but union officials pointed out that workers have gone without raises for five years.

BART spokesman Rick Rice said in a statement late Sunday:

“The public doesn’t deserve to be punished. We are sorry they have decided to strike despite the fact we are willing to negotiate.  The District is prepared to return to talks and get this finished. We would have worked all night long.”

Last week SEIU Local 1021 chapter president John Arantes said BART workers didn’t want to go on strike. Late Sunday, the union posted on its website a statement saying BART management “threw in the towel,” blaming transit officials for the breakdown in talks:

“SEIU members are still here and available to meet with BART management until contracts expire at midnight. Our workers do not want a strike, but they cannot continue to work in conditions that are unsafe for workers and riders. … Management pushed away from the table tonight.”

With nearly 400,000 trips taken a day on BART, the idling of its trains is expected to send cars pouring onto to the region’s freeways and surface streets, while leaving other commuters scrambling to find ways to get to work.

Meanwhile, AC Transit union leaders said via Facebook their negotiations would continue until midnight Sunday when their contract expired, and that the union would give the public 24 hours before striking.

With BART trains not running, AC Transit buses are the only remaining mass transit link between the East Bay and San Francisco.

Other options available to transbay commuters during a BART strike include:

  • Ferries departing from Oakland, Alameda and Vallejo;
  • Telecommuting;
  • Bus service from Greyhound, WestCAT or Amtrak;
  • Limited BART charter service from and to El Cerrito del Norte, Walnut Creek, Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont stations;
  • Casual carpooling from BART stations or other locations. Parking at BART stations will be free to accommodate car poolers during the strike.