San Francisco Transit Unions Delay Strike as Talks Continue

Bay Area Rapid Transit unions said there would be no strike today as a cooling-off period expired and talks on a new contract were extended past the deadline.

A walkout would disrupt travel for about 400,000 daily riders for the second time in three months.

“We will continue bargaining through the weekend,” Service Employees International Union Local 1021 said in a statement on its website. It set a new deadline of midnight Oct. 13, before the Monday commute.

BART, as the fifth-largest U.S. commuter-rail system is known, connects the San Francisco-Oakland region and San Francisco International Airport. The unions walked out for four days in July after their contract expired, costing the Bay Area economy $70 million, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in August.

“The trains will be running while we continue to negotiate,” Rick Rice, a BART spokesman, said in a statement.

A strike would force thousands of BART riders to switch to cars, jamming freeways, stay home or join long lines for buses and ferries as they did in July.

While the strikers returned temporarily in August, the unions threated to resume their job action. That was blocked when a state judge in San Francisco approved a 60-day cooling-off period at the request of Governor Jerry Brown, a 75-year-old Democrat. The stay expired last night.

About 3,250 people work for BART, which pays an average of $79,500 a year to its employees, who also receive $50,800 in benefits annually, according to the agency’s website.

BART’s major unions are SEIU, representing mechanics and clerical employees, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which bargains for train operators and station agents.