BART strike: Union workers take to picket lines for 'safety'

As workers dismantled the last vestiges of San Francisco's pride festival in the early Monday morning sunshine, a small band of union demonstrators protested at the Civic Center BART station.

Workers in two of Bay Area Rapid Transit's largest unions were on strike Monday morning, halting service for an estimated 400,000 passengers who use the nation's fifth-largest rail system each weekday.

Union workers and BART management could not come to an agreement late Sunday. Contracts expired at midnight. More than 5,000 city of Oakland and BART employees are expected to strike throughout the day.

Brenda Barros, a member of SEIU Local 1021, one of the two unions striking, said the strike is about worker safety and “management unwillingness to be reasonable with the workers.”

“They have not had pay raises for quite a long time. They’ve made wage concessions and they’re pensions are under attack,” Barros said. “They feel the maintenance on the train is not done as much as it should be because staffing is cut back at the same time management is getting raises.”

The pickets began along Market Street in downtown San Francisco at about 5:30 a.m. Purple-shirted SEIU members joined members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555. The ATU primarily represents drivers, while the SEIU represents mostly station workers and maintenance workers.

At the Montgomery Street station, a small band of strikers waved signs that said: “On strike at BART” and “Safety first.” Others blew noisemakers and shouted slogans such as “We are ready to fight, damn right!” and “What’s this about? Safety!”

The usually busy stations were quiet Monday morning as many of the BART entry gates were roped off with orange tape.

At Montgomery Station, Yuri Castillo, 32, of San Francisco was handing out copies of the Examiner newspaper with the word STRIKE in two-inch letters.

Tina Santillan, a train operator and a union steward from ATU Local 1555, said she got 1 hour, 48 minutes of sleep Sunday night. The Daly City resident had been picketing since 5 a.m.

Exhausted, she talked about wage disparities and what she would say to commuters who needed to get to their jobs.

“We are working-class folk, and we work for the working-class people,” she said. “The BART board is not in support of working-class people.”


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