BART passenger enters fare gates.
BART passenger enters fare gates.

Update: 11:45 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4:

The latest:Gov. Jerry Brown has stepped into the deadlocked talks between BART and its two biggest unions and appointed a three-member board of inquiry to examine the unresolved issues in the labor dispute.

Brown’s move, made at the request of BART officials, means that workers will not go on strike tonight and trains will roll as usual Monday morning.

In a Sunday night letter to union leaders and BART management, Brown said the three-member board of inquiry will conduct its investigation and report back to him within seven days. Union leaders said during an impromptu press conference outside Caltrans District Four headquarters in Oakland that train service will continue during that time. The inquiry could lead to a formal cooling-off period.

Brown acted under a state law that allows him to order a board of inquiry if a strike or lockout threatens to disrupt public transportation and endanger “the public’s health, safety, or welfare.”

The union leaders expressed frustration that this weekend’s marathon talks ended with the two sides still far apart on the three central issues: pay and future pension payments and contributions to medical benefits.

“We want to say that we have been here for the last 24 hours, and we only got a very regressive proposal from BART in the last 45 minutes,” SEIU Local 1021 chief negotiator Josie Mooney said. “We’re very disappointed in their continued posturing, their continued negotiations, which are in very bad faith.” In a brief press conference at BART headquarters after Brown’s announcement, BART board President Tom Radulovich disputed Mooney’s account. “We don’t think we put forward a regressive offer,” Radulovich said. “As we’ve sat here this weekend, our wage offer went up and up.”

In a statement, BART said Radulovich wrote Brown earlier Sunday to ask him to declare a 60-day cooling-off period.

A cooling-off period would “allow us to continue negotiating while assuring the public that it will have transit service tomorrow and for another 60 days as we continue to bargain,” Radulovich wrote.

Brown’s decision to order the board of inquiry stopped short of Radulovich’s request, though.

SEIU Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez thanked the governor for stepping in, but said that all sides must now focus on presenting a case to the investigating board. “Unfortunately, it takes our attention away from the bargaining table,” Sanchez said. “But perhaps this will shed the light on what we’ve been trying to tell you, the press and the public.”

Under law, the board of inquiry’s report to the governor must be made public.

In his letter, Brown said the board of inquiry includes: Jacob Appelsmith, the board’s chairman, director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control; Micki Callahan, director of human resources for the city and county of San Francisco; and Robert L. Balgenorth, president emeritus of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

The governor concluded by asking all sides for a quick resolution. “For the sake of the people of the Bay Area, I urge—in the strongest terms possible—the parties to meet quickly and as long as necessary to get this dispute resolved,” Brown said.

Brown acted under California Code Section 3612, subdivision a. That provision reads:

Whenever in the opinion of the Governor, a threatened or actual strike or lockout will, if permitted to occur or continue, significantly disrupt public transportation services and endanger the public’s health, safety, or welfare, and upon the request of either party to the dispute, the Governor may appoint a board to investigate the issues involved in the dispute and to make a written report to him or her within seven days. The report shall include a statement of the facts with respect to the dispute, including the respective positions of the parties, but shall not contain recommendations. The report shall be made available to the public.

Earlier post: About 8 p.m., BART’s hired chief negotiator, Thomas Hock, left the talks at Caltrans District Four headquarter to confer with the transit agency’s management. He told reporters there had been some progress in the talks. But the unions’ lead negotiators also left the talks for a dinner break, and they suggested there’s been little or no progress. If you’re looking for a reason to feel hopeful the trains will be running in the morning, it’s in the insistence of both sides to keep talking tonight.

Here’s how the latest report from the Bay Area News Group sums up the scene with less than three hours to go until the midnight strike deadline:

BART chief negotiator Tom Hock, leaving the bargaining table Sunday night to brief other agency officials, said “we’re getting closer” but that talks were moving “slowly.” As he walked, about two-dozen union workers shouted at him: “Hock go home!”

Minutes later, Chris Finn, recording secretary for the local Amalgamated Transit Union, said no progress had been made but that union leaders were ready to negotiate all night: “We’ve got a hotel room and we’re ready to meet around the clock if need be,” he said.

BART spokesman Rick Rice said proposals were going “back and forth” between management and the unions. He was encouraged that the talks had stretched on so long and hoped unions would see enough progress that, even without a deal, they would extend the talks into Monday while keeping service intact.

“There’s a lot of activity going on. I’m hopeful,” Rice said. “When I see this much activity (and talks go on) this long I’m more hopeful we’ll keep talking and keep trains running.”

Otherwise, the main news as we move toward the midnight deadline for a second BART strike in five weeks is … that there’s very little of substance to report about the actual negotiations..

There was one media flurry early this afternoon. The BART chapter of SEIU Local 1021 and Local 1555 of the Amalgamated Transit Union put out word that they’d hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. in Oakland. That drew a crowd of media. But just before the appointed time, an SEIU representative appeared, apologized for the inconvenience, and canceled the press event. KQED’s Alex Emslie said a groan went up from the crowd of reporters, some of whom asked whether the cancellation was a good sign. All the union rep had to say was, “We’re working diligently.”

And just to recap what the major issues are—”the generals,” or general issues, in the parlance of BART General Manager Grace Crunican:

  • Pay: Unions are seeking a substantial raise after agreeing to a wage freeze in their 2009 contract. Their opening position was 23 percent over four years. It’s unknown what their current proposals might be, but BART has said in the past few days that it has stuck to an 8 percent raise over the four-year term of the new contract—compared to an opening position of 4 percent.
  • Pensions: Most BART union employees currently pay nothing into their pensions. BART said in a recent statement it wants them to pay 5 percent of their salaries into their pension plan and that the unions are seeking to hold the contribution to 3 percent.
  • Medical benefits: BART’s union employees currently pay $92 a month for medical insurance, regardless of how many people are covered in an employee’s policy. BART says it’s seeking to get workers to cover 10 percent of the monthly cost of their plans and that the unions want to continue paying a flat rate.
  • Unions have also sought unspecified improvements in safety procedures for station workers, train operators, and maintenance personnel.
  • Citing a gag order on negotiations, the unions have not released details of their current proposals for pensions or medical benefits.

Here’s a running account of the this evening’s developments, with some commentary from around the social media sphere:

  • trophies

    You people are so selfish. We have people who are starving in the world and you are fighting over money…Wow. I mean what about that family has no other means of transportation. Both sides are selfish

  • Erika Claiborne

    they just need to figure something out because there are a lot of young people like me that cant afford for this to happen if this happens ill loose my job and i will end up completely financially devastated from this. Living in the east bay commuting to San Francisco and having a professional service based career is hard to prove your self when bart keeps making you un reliable. the other ways of travel are not reliable where i come from. 2 strikes already …..my boss could easily just say your transportation is not reliable enough and we need someone who is more reliable and let me go just like that but all these employees don’t see that there actually hurting the people paying the bart fares that pay for their pay checks

    • Pablo

      I think you should lose your job anyways for having terrible spelling and grammar. In an age of spell checkers and auto corrections it really is unacceptable.

      • meg

        You are mean!

  • C Wadsworth

    My husband and I commute to SF Monday through Friday on BART, and for the past month my family hasn’t been able to pay the electricity bill, BARELY paid the rent, and we are living day to day foodwise. I cannot believe how selfish and self-important the BART employees are. They are taking their toll on everyone elses paychecks, they should be ashamed of themselves. Times are tough, this is no time to ask for a raise, and certainly in no such manner. Have a little dignity! They should be sympathetic towards the rest of the world, instead of asking for sympathy from people who make half as much and don’t receive any benefits whatsoever. I can’t even express my disgust, They should all be sent to Eastern Europe where the monthly salary is on average about $200, no benefits, and you aren’t even protected by the government in the event you don’t receive your paycheck. BART employees need a wake-up call, welcome to reality!

    • hhh789

      can’t agree more, round trip bart fare plus parking cost more than $10/day

  • Bay Area Commuter

    A recent KPIX poll says it all – a majority of the Bay Area residents (2 to 1) are against the Strike and think the BART employees get paid too much! They need to get with the current economy and just be glad they have a job!

  • digusted in oakland

    I work in the private sector. I have 3 professional degrees. I contribute to my own healthcare. I max out my 401K and then I try to save even more. I don’t have a pension, I don’t have guaranteed raises. If I show up for work I get paid and if I were to go on strike I would lose my job. I make too much money to live in SF section 8 housing and yet I actually don’t make enough money to live in SF on my current salary. So I have to commute from the East Bay. The happy news is that I live on an AC Transit line where the drivers are friendly and professional, the buses are generally clean and functional, the drivers don’t allow panhandling on the bus, and the regular commutersknow one another. In the last strike AC cut service on my regular line in order to offset the bad behaviour of BART. So I had to alter my commuting habits to accommodate others – which I gladly did because I knew the hardship BART placed on not only the 400,000 regular riders but the rest of us who have to get in and out of the city each day.
    So I say what ever undeserved raise BART may get – they should reimburse the commuters vicitms who had to spend more to get in and out of work each day.
    In fact if it were left up to me BART would take a salary cut to payback every one of the commuters who were forced to find another way into work each day.

    • I Ride The Same AC Transit Bus

      So you’re okay with the deserved raise, then? Cost of living in the Bay Area has gone up significantly more than 8 percent in the last four years, not to mention the projected increase for the next four. Since BART employees don’t get bonuses or stock options, a regular minimum increase is the best way for them to tread water, let alone save for retirement.

      • Sue the SEIU

        They are already overpaid. They are not treading water. They have a pension and healthcare for retirement. Sue the SEIU for our lost productivity. I hope a lawyer steps forward to take the case.

        • I Ride The Same AC Transit Bus

          Forgive me for not taking your word for it.

          • BART is already too expensive

            And we are supposed to take yours? They get paid plenty, more than people who do things like teach and do cancer research, as opposed to a job that a trained monkey can do. They should thank their lucky stars that they get paid so much, despite the fact that they are terrible at their jobs and have no discernible people skills. Where else can you get a cake job doin next to nothing but talking into a PA system and pulling levers and not helping patrons?

  • eRideShare

    Bay Area Carpool Center for commuters stranded by BART strike. Free to use, 800+ matches. http://eRideShare.com/Bay

  • willis james

    Amazing, the union leaders who say BART needs to share the “profits” with the workers.
    That for organization that gets over 30% of its total revenues from the local taxpayers in the form of a 0.5% sales tax tacked onto everything we purchase.
    Thus the “profits” that BART workers demand to get a share of, come directly from the pockets of taxpayers, from the poorest to the wealthy. Remember sales taxes are regressive.
    So we need to give them the ‘profits” so they can continue to pay ZERO into their pensions. We need to give them the profits so the can get medical, dental and vision for a family of 5, for only $92 a month.
    We need to give them the “profits” so they can get a 23% raise over 3 years.
    The saddest thing is that so many of them actually believe there are “profits” and that they deserve to make more than any transit agency in the state.
    They, most of whom have only a high school diploma, think they should be paid a lucrative wage regardless of job.
    Their own ads tell us about Phyliss the custodian who ONLY makes $52,000 a year for a 37.5 hour job. Who gets over $23,850 in medical, dental and vision benefits for $92 a month.
    Who gets overtime even when only putting in a normal 40 hour week.
    Who has triple the vacation, sick days holidays most of us have.
    AS thought all that is NORMAL for custodians in the real world.

    • Non-Elitist

      Be quiet! If you’re having trouble with the rent, electricity and food then get a better education, better jobs, and don’t spend money on getting your hair and nails done, “designer” clothes and jewelry, car notes, and houses you can’t afford! Damn elitists make me sick!

      • RaiseTHIS

        I don’t see how Willis is being an elitist at all, or how she spends her money has anything to do with what she’s saying. If it’s elitist to go to college for 4+ years to try to make end’s meet then, sure, she’s elitist.
        Me? I went to college for 4 years. I live in the bay area and rely on Bart. I make only a few thousand more than “phyllis” does, in the field I studied, and I have to pay off student loans in the process. If I had known BART paid as much as it does, I would have skipped out on college too and gotten a job mopping up crap in a bathroom. A lot less work than what I do now, and about the same pay — with no college fees to worry about!
        Yeah, living in the bay area is hard and expensive, I get that. But to hold the entire bay area hostage because they think they should be making more money than actual college graduates — no, if they think they should be making more money for doing absolutely nothing but sitting around in their glass booths ignoring riders — they can find something else to do. Oh? What? They can’t find something else that lets them sit around doing nothing with a pay that high? Gee, I wonder why!
        The only ones who deserve a raise are the engineers, the bart police, and the drivers — the rest of them are lucky they have a job with healthcare even offered. I also agree that safety should be number one priority. But you can’t expect a 23 percent raise, thousands in benefits, AND an investment in safety procedures!
        So, Non-Elitist… YOU be quiet. YOU.

  • EBAYCommute

    If these people had to compete in an unrestrained job market, there’s no way they get the kinds of compensation they’re ALREADY getting – much less asking for. Let them strike, but please also allow the “Help Wanted” signs to go up immediately.

    • Fin de Siècle

      Right, because we want the return of Robber Barons and Child Labor. Public transportation is a common good, and I for one don’t want it run like a sweatshop.

      • EBAYCommute

        80k per year, full pension comp and health benefits doesn’t sound ANYTHING like Robber Barons or child labor violations. Please stop with the irrelevant hyperbole.

        • Fin de Siecle

          Find me these Union Workers making an average of $80k, please. $80k per year is more indicative of management.

          • EBAY Commute

            Pick a number Fin – – – your hyperbole was “Robber Barons” and “Child Labor” – – Find me ANY children forced into working for BART. These morons have it very nice compared to any other transit district IN THE NATION and very nice as compared to a majority of workers in the Bay Area in ANY OTHER sector with comparable skills.
            But – ignore the original point, because that’s what your ilk does best – ignore. OR – put up the “Help Wanted ” sign – and see what happens.

          • EBAYCommute

            At the total comp BART workers enjoy, we are a LOOOOONG way from Child Labor concerns, Fin. BART employees are amongst the highest paid for their industry. Their health and retirement bene’s are completely out of line with ANYTHING that is currently being offered in the private OR public sector(s).
            The Robber Baron – if one exists in this debate – is only the collusion of these employees and their management who refuse to offer these jobs to millions who are ready, willing, and able to do perform the very same tasks.

      • Sue the SEIU

        Union plant

        • Fin de Siecle

          Uninformed grinch.

          • EBAYcomute

            The striking doesn’t help their cause – nor does the Bronx cheer they served up to management representatives the other night – – nor does the very blatant work slow downs that have been ongoing for the last couple of weeks leading up to the strike deadline . . . the list goes on and on.
            You want me to respect your position?
            Act the part.
            EVERYTHING I’ve seen from labor on this has been, at best, poorly worded and, at worst, shenanigans which can only be attributable to hooligans.

      • Ross P

        I agree with the sentiment, but the BART workers are making out compared to the rest of the general public.

        I can understand complaints about safety, or access to restrooms or whatever, but trying to force raises across the board when they’re already better off than most people is just in bad taste.

        And the striking doesn’t help their cause – it just hurts the millions of people who rely on them everyday to get to their benny-less minimum wage job.

  • Curious

    Why are all the BART employees, government workers and Union people all obese?

  • Thetruthbetold

    Unions…. Greedy unions!

  • Vet Tech

    All the sick animals I need to take care of tomorrow should not have to suffer because I can’t get to work… Thanks greedy Bart workers, I’m sure they will understand!!

  • Poor Bay Area Commuters

    Greedy BART personel. Just because you want more benefits, people around the Bay Area have to suffer just to go to work. I heard someone who works at Wal-Mart say, “Try working at Wal-Mart and then see how bad you guys have it”. Ha!

  • f simanjuntak

    now bart has 7 days to fire and replace their ungreatful union workers

  • Androxion

    Honestly, Bart and Union are being unfair to everyone else. I used to love being on a union but as of right now, it disgusted me how foolish they really are to put themselves before others, it’s not like they’re not getting less paycheck like we the people do. a pension? a raise? benefit? man, i dont even get those and yet i’m not even complaining about it, so what give them the right to do so? I hope they dont get it all because right now it ticks me off with the way they’re acting, greedy…

  • frank

    all i can say is F**k the union!!! Bury all of em like hoffa!!!

  • Fred

    Methinks it would behoove us if we brought all employees up to BART employees.

    Currently we have a race to the bottom with American tax dollars
    (i.e. you and me) subsidizing Walmart employees for Medicare, SNAP,
    affordable housing, etc.

    Sigh.

  • 23 year BART worker

    On the health care issue, The misinformation that has been broadcasted by BART and the media is incorrect. The BART worker pays over twice that, at $200/month. The BART worker is trying to be fiscally responsible, in that as far back as 2001, we recognized the problem facing BART with the rising cost of Health care, and all ideas to solving the problems in 01 were dismissed by BART’s management. Again in 2005, the Unions approached the District with a solution to the health care, and in doing so started paying 3 times what they were paying, with an automatic 3% escalator per year to 2034, built into the healthcare plan that BART offers, We also limited the health care providers for all BART workers, and if a worker wanted another provider, they had to purchase that at their own expense. Once again, in 2009, the BART worker offered another idea to stabilize BARTs health care expenses and wanted to move all BART workers from a 5 years vesting to a 15 year vesting. After a law in Sacramento was drawn up, passed unanimously by the legislators, BART’s management, behind closed doors, persuaded Gov. Brown to VETO the law that would save BART $30+ Million over the next 20-30 years. On the pension, BART worker do pay for their pension. In 1980, the workers gave up approx 11% in wages, and agreed to allow the District to pay the employee share of the pension, to save BART money, both in wage increase, and in the amount of benefits that are based on those lower wages. In return, this year, because of Gov. Brown’s Pension Reform law, BART management wants the employee, to pay, for their pension again, out of pocket. Putting it another way, what BART wants, if for the employee to put $2 into retirement, and only get $1 out when you retire. How many people are up for that? The BART worker is not in the Social Security system, so we don’t have that as a fall back position. The BART worker’s “Social Security” is the pension that BART now wants to change, and have the worker pay most of the employer’s share, and twice what the employee’s share. I know this is complicated, and can’t be brought out in the tiny sound bites that are broadcast over the airwaves, but the correct information needs to get out there, so the public has the truth, not the lies and misrepresentations put out by BART Management.

    • EBAYCommute

      How many are up for that?
      Not many.
      On the other hand – how many of us in private have lost HUUUGE portions of our personal contributions to our retirement over the last 10 years? I wiped mine out when my company sold out and I found myself without work for 2 years searching for another opportunity.
      How many of us who have been contributing to Soc Sec will see a fraction of what we put in? Probably – everyone.
      With all respect to “23 year BART worker” – the kinds of comparisons you have stated, simply serve as confirmation as to how wildly out of touch with economic reality your demands are.

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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