Negotiations were set to resume late today to end a strike idling commuter trains that usually carry about 400,000 riders a day between San Francisco, its airport and the East Bay area.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit system, known as BART, has been shut down for two days by the Service Employees International Union, representing mechanics and clerical workers, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which includes train operators and station agents, whose contracts expired June 30.
The strike is BART’s first since 1997, when a six-day shutdown jammed freeways and saddled workers with lengthier commutes. The transit system’s 3,250 employees have an average salary of $79,500 plus $50,800 a year in benefits, according to its website.
“After one full day of no meetings, we are eager to get back to the table,” a BART spokesman, Rick Rice, said today in a statement. Key issues are pay and health and retirement benefits, he said last week.
The state is sending two negotiators -- Anita Martinez, the head of the Public Employment Relations Board, and Loretta van der Pol, the chief of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service -- to join the talks as mediators, said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.
“We’ve agreed to resume talks at the invitation of state officials,” Josie Mooney, the SEIU’s negotiator, said in a statement.
The resumption set for 6 p.m. local time would follow letters sent to both sides by state Controller John Chiang, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, all Democrats, saying they were “disappointed about the lack of productive proposals and counter-proposals” in the talks.
They urged BART’s unions to “recognize the need of government at all levels to balance rising employee costs,” while saying management “would be well-advised to treat your frontline employees” as partners.
Shane Pittman, 22, of Fremont, who works in security, said it took him two hours to get to San Francisco yesterday 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.”
At the downtown San Francisco Transbay Terminal yesterday, teenagers were selling Krispy Kreme 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.