San Francisco Transit Strike Enters 2nd Day Upending Ride

July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Workers on the commuter trains linking downtown San Francisco to its airport and the East Bay went on strike today, forcing about 400,000 daily riders to hit the clogged roads in cars and buses. Cory Johnson reports on Bloomberg Television's "Bloomberg West." (Source: Bloomberg)

Trains linking downtown San Francisco to its airport and the East Bay area are likely to remain idle today, officials said, as a strike entered its second day, forcing about 400,000 riders to commute by car, bus or ferry.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system, known as BART, was shut down by the Service Employees International Union, representing mechanics and clerical employees, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which includes train operators and station agents, after an impasse in contract talks over pay and health and retirement benefits. The previous contracts expired June 30.

“BART has received no indication that ATU and SEIU will return to work tomorrow, Tuesday,” the agency said late yesterday in a statement. “We are working hard to bring a fair and responsible resolution to labor talks.”

Union leaders said BART managers didn’t negotiate in good faith.

“A strike is always the last resort and we have done everything in our power to avoid it,” Josie Mooney, the SEIU’s lead negotiator, said in a statement. “We are disappointed that BART’s failure to bargain honestly and fairly means that hundreds of thousands of Bay Area commuters have to suffer.”

The system opened in 1972 and connects to cities across San Francisco bay, including Berkeley and Oakland, as well as San Francisco International Airport. BART employs about 3,250 people whose average salary is $79,500 and who receive $50,800 in benefits annually, according to its website.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Buttons are displayed during a Bay Area Rapid Transit worker strike authorization vote on June 25. Close

Buttons are displayed during a Bay Area Rapid Transit worker strike authorization vote on June 25.

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Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Buttons are displayed during a Bay Area Rapid Transit worker strike authorization vote on June 25.

Six Days

The strike is the system’s first since 1997, when a six-day shutdown jammed freeways and saddled workers with lengthier commutes. Agreements negotiated in 2009 ended last month for all five BART unions.

The transit system is providing round-trip bus service from its El Cerrito del Norte, Walnut Creek, Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont stations to San Francisco, according to a statement on its website. It said buses will provide free round-trip service from West Oakland, where parking is available at no cost. The San Francisco Bay Ferry said it would extend its hours and deploy all available vessels to accommodate increased demand.

Shane Pittman, 22, a Fremont resident who works in security, said yesterday it took him two hours to get to San Francisco this morning.

“It kind of sucked,” he said in an interview. The strike “makes everyone else’s day 10 times worse than it has to be.”

Talks Stalemated

“We’ve not heard anything from BART management that they want to resume negotiations,” Mooney said. “They have to respond with a different tone and mode than how they’ve approached us so far.”

Rick Rice, a BART spokesman, said agency officials are waiting by the phone.

“Our team is assembled and ready to respond when the negotiator calls,” he said yesterday by telephone.

California Governor Jerry Brown, a 75-year-old Democrat, said in a June 30 statement that the impasse and strike should end soon.

“BART and its labor unions owe the public a swift resolution of their differences,” Brown said. “All parties should be at the table doing their best to find common ground,” according to the statement.

At the downtown San Francisco Transbay Terminal yesterday, teenagers were selling Krispy Kreme (KKD) doughnuts to disgruntled commuters arriving from the East Bay.

Latease Williams, a 42-year-old medical receptionist from Oakland, said she has been taking BART for more than 20 years. She said yesterday’s slog to her job on Market Street near the Embarcadero was hard to bear.

“I hope they come out with a contract with these people because this is bad -- it’s bad,” she said.

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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