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No end in sight for BART strike as commute gridlock enters third day

Gates bar the entrance to West Oakland BART station, closed due to a strike. (Steven Luo / CALIFORNIA BEAT)

At the urging of the state’s labor secretary, Bay Area leaders and other politicians, BART’s two striking unions and the transit agency returned to the bargaining table Tuesday night.

However, hours of talks facilitated by a state mediator were not enough to prevent the strike from entering a third day.

“We are sorry that the actions of ATU and SEIU have caused such a tremendous disruption to the people of the Bay Area,” BART officials told riders, warning them to seek alternatives to get to around without train service Wednesday morning.

Both sides remained far apart on wages and benefits. Union leaders are demanding a 21.5 percent wage increase over the life of the new contract, according to the agency’s calculations. BART’s latest offer included a 5 percent raise over four years that could increase to 8 percent if ridership and budget projections come out as planned.

Union representatives said the offer wasn’t good enough and walked away before a Sunday night deadline, leading to the first BART strike since 1997.

“At least then, the management was trying to talk to the union, but now it seems like they’re shying away,” said Augusto Escoto, a 23-year veteran BART fare collection technician who picketed in front of the Lake Merritt BART Station Tuesday.

“For the riders, I hope this will be settled as soon as possible,” he said.

Commuters grow weary

Hordes of Bay Area commuters packed into buses, crowded onto ferries and lined up by the hundreds at casual carpool pick-up spots again Tuesday. Travel times during the most congested parts of the day doubled — and in some cases tripled — for stranded BART riders commuting between the East Bay and San Francisco.

AC Transit officials said the agency would continue providing additional capacity on its Transbay routes, but warned commuters again to expect full buses and long waits.

“It’s really bad,” said Jackie Torres, 39, of Oakland.

Torres said it normally takes her 11 minutes to get from her West Oakland home to her job as a stylist at Macy’s Union Square in San Francisco. Since Monday, her commute has grown to nearly two hours because of long waits for BART’s free shuttle buses from the West Oakland Station into San Francisco’s Temporary Transbay Transit Center at Beale and Howard Sts.

“Then there’s the walk from the terminal to my job,” she said. “We really need BART back.”

“It’s taking me two hours each way,” Joan Jing said as she boarded a BART shuttle bus to Fremont at the West Oakland Station Tuesday. “I’m losing time for everything, time for exercising, time with the family.”

Drivers who chose to avoid the public transit alternatives and brave heavily congested streets and freeways had it even worse. San Francisco’s already congested Financial District was completely gridlocked during the afternoon and evening commute hours. It took some drivers an hour to travel from Embarcadero and Washington Sts. to the Bay Bridge on-ramps at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

What you can expect Wednesday

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One Comment »

  • Buzz Avery said:

    So BART union workers are on strike. Again? What is it this time…cosmetic dental care, a 30 hour work week with full benefits, more overtime? Geez, these people are insatiable. Of course, just to show how nasty they can be, they pick the July 4th holiday season to strike. How thoughtless.

    Their powers have become so pervasive and strident, they remind me of the grip churches used to have in the Middle Ages — posing as protectors and servants of the public while actually acting in their own self-interests. Governments and sovereignty were unwilling and unable to oppose the church since it had such a grip on the public mind.

    And any bureaucrat or politician that tries to stand against them will get blamed for causing a strike. The union goes on strike in order to shut down a crucial segment of government. And they’re considerate of other unions since they like to take turns, crippling government operations until they get what they demand.

    Has anyone brought up the idea that this might be a national security issue, and possible violation of the Homeland Protection Act? No challenge will happen under a Democratic administration and its love affair with unions. What if there was an evacuation order for San Francisco or any part of the bay area due to a natural disaster or terrorist attack. With BART union on strike, everyone can just stay where they are a suffer the consequences. The union comes first.

    Government unions are pretty much in charge in California, as in other union states. They are the worker bees that control all levels of government and each is almost impossible to terminate, regardless of how incompetent one might be. This gives them the job security they need to minimize their job performance. And, of course, the less competent they become, the more overtime, and hiring of more union members to pay the union dues.

    And California, even with its enormous debt, has Gov. Brown and the legislature embracing the idea of giving government employees more raises and benefits during the current economic boom. They ignore the debt going forward. Anyone who follows the news sees our state leaders as just another group of spenders kicking the can down the road, racking up more debt, just to get themselves re-elected by the unions they represent.

    Besides the regular increased demands for benefits, pay, and improved working conditions, they work the system to get as much overtime or time off as possible. One of the major complaints about union workers by bureaucrats is excessive overtime payroll, which sometime exceeds regular hourly pay.

    But before you call me a “scab” for crossing a union line, you need to know I was a member of the teacher’s union for 10 years. The union’s main focus was always upon insuring teachers were rewarded for seniority and fighting against performance evaluations and standards. They had zero tolerance for the concept of weeding out incompetent teachers. The union comes first.

    Looking at a map of the U.S., it’s easy to see why unions are likely here to stay. The blue states, with two exceptions, are union states. The Democratic party depends upon the union vote. Before an election, union leaders simply have to show this map to members and tell them that electing Democrats protects unions. And as you would expect, 26 states are union, 24 are “right-to-work” states, and presidential candidates split the vote in close elections.

    And the debt and livings costs parallels, for the most part, being union states or not. Of the 15 states carrying the highest percentage of government debt, and comprising about half the U.S. population, 11 are union states. On the cost of living, 18 out of the 20 with the highest are union states.

    Unions. Can’t live with them, can’t get rid of them. They’re running the show.