Bloomberg News

San Francisco Transit Walkout Resumes, Threatening Chaos (2)

October 18, 2013

San Francisco Transit Walkout Resumes, Threatening Chaos

Union members picket outside the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland on Oct. 18, 2013. Photographer: Erin Lubin/Bloomberg

San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit unions went back on strike today, disrupting travel for about 400,000 daily riders after contract talks broke down.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which finances transit in the region, approved a $21.5 million strike contingency plan, including limited bus service to deal with the walkout, said a spokesman, John Goodwin.

The strike against BART, as the system’s known, is a follow-up to a four-day walkout in July that forced thousands of riders into cars, jamming freeways, or long lines for too-few buses and ferries. Others gave up and stayed home. It cost the Bay Area economy $70 million, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in August.

At the MacArthur BART station in Oakland this morning, Vincent Maccioli, 45, and Chris Santeramo, 49, waited for a bus chartered by their employer, San Francisco-based social-gaming company Zynga Inc. (ZNGA:US)

“I have a lot of sympathy for the workers, but I also think they’re divorced from the private sector,” Maccioli said.

The union walked out even after both sides came to “an overall understanding on economics,” Roxanne Sanchez, president of BART’s largest labor group, Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said yesterday in a statement. The Bay Area Rapid Transit District, which runs BART, offered 3 percent annual raises over four years, according to its website.

Rule Changes

Sanchez said the talks broke down over “changes in workplace rules that have historically protected workers from issues like abuse of power, unfair treatment and sexual harassment,” without providing specifics.

Grace Crunican, the transit system’s general manager, said the district was seeking “essential work rule efficiencies BART desperately needs to modernize our operations.”

“We are not going to agree to something we can’t afford,” Crunican said in a statement.

BART hired 150 buses to take commuters directly to San Francisco from stations in the East Bay, Goodwin said. The buses will be able to carry only about 6,000 passengers a day, in each direction, according to a statement on the district’s website.

Ferries will run between Alameda and San Francisco every 45 minutes, according to the commission. Service between San Francisco and Oakland will run every 45 minutes during peak travel times.

Brown’s Request

The transit system’s previous labor contract expired June 30. With no agreement on a new accord, workers walked out the next day. While they returned to work, the unions threatened to resume striking in August.

That move was blocked when a state judge in San Francisco approved a 60-day cooling-off period at the request of Governor Jerry Brown, a 75-year-old Democrat and former Oakland mayor. The period expired on Oct. 10.

The July walkout was the first since 1997, when workers struck for six days.

About 3,250 people work for BART, which pays an average of $79,500 a year to its employees, who also receive $50,800 in benefits annually, according to the agency’s website.

BART’s major unions are the SEIU, representing mechanics and clerical employees, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which bargains for train operators and station agents.

At the MacArthur station, Santeramo, the Zynga worker, was resigned.

“This bus is already 10 minutes late,” he said. “It’s going to be a long day.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alison Vekshin in San Francisco at avekshin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net


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