OAKLAND — It was a waiting game that drove the Bay Area to heights of frustration as strike deadlines came and went and then a four-day work stoppage on BART’s 104-mile commuter rail system sent commuters scrambling -- for the second time in four months.
Bay Area Rapid Transit management had faced off with its two biggest unions – Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 -- since spring, and at times it seemed the discord would never end.
But at 10 p.m. Monday it did. Officials announced trains would begin running early Tuesday, with a full schedule in place for the afternoon commute.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom offered his perspective: “This is about people and a lot of people’s lives have been impacted. If there’s any lesson learned, it’s that this can never happen again.”
Newsom showed up at the Oakland offices of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for the final hours of negotiations, along with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, a number of state lawmakers and dozens of labor leaders and BART officials.
Details of the tentative agreement that brought the strike to an end were sparse, as unions wished to first inform their members. But it seemed to be a true compromise.
BART General Manager Grace Crunican called it “more than we wanted to pay” but said it put BART on a better path of understanding with its unions. Labor leaders also praised it, calling it a win for workers' rights.
They had already come to agreement with management on pension and health benefit contribution but were slightly at odds on pay raises as well as broader issues affecting workplace decision-making -- and safety.
On those, the unions seemed to get at least part of what they wanted.
The agreement was brokered two days after a train operated by a management trainee struck and killed two BART workers inspecting a stretch of track and the tragedy seemed to propel talks forward.
Des Patten, a spokesman for SEIU Local 1021, said he was “proud to bring a tentative agreement that prioritizes rider and worker safety to our members for a vote. This will preserve important workplace protections.”
Antonette Bryant, president of ATU Local 1555, emphasized that she did not want it “to be forgotten that two lives were lost.” Yet she praised the agreement, saying, “We will go back to work and continue our efforts to keep the Bay Area moving. We would like especially to thank our riders, our riders that stood by us.”