Third BART union holds Wednesday strike option

By Ritu Bhatnagar Associated Press Writer
Wednesday September 05, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — The threat of a BART strike may not be over, as a third union awaits a court decision to either extend or revoke a restraining order that prevents it from striking. 

If the San Francisco Superior Court judge releases the union from the order, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3993 could still strike on Wednesday. The two unions that reached a tentative agreement Tuesday with BART have pledged to honor AFSCME’s picket lines, which would leave BART commuters to find alternatives. 

James Bunker, an executive board member of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said his union and the Service Employees International Union Local 790 would have to meet among themselves to decide further action if AFSCME strikes. AFSCME represents BART’s 240 managers and supervisors. 

Norma Del Mercado, president of AFSCME, said BART placed a restraining order on the union to prevent them from striking while the negotiations with ATU and SEIU were ongoing. She said she expected the judge to extend the restraining order to either Oct. 5 or Oct. 15. 

“But if we’re released from the order, that would put us in a position where we could strike,” she said. 

Del Mercado said she was frustrated with BART’s hold on negotiations with AFSCME. 

“We’ve been trying to negotiate with them since May,” Del Mercado said. “They’ve put us on a holding period, and we have issues that are very different (from the other two unions) that we need to discuss.” 

Del Mercado said her union’s concerns include the right to protect their jobs and to establish pay parity. 

“We’re on salary, not an hourly rate,” she said. “If you look at our pay scales, only seven people in our union fall under the acceptable range of what they should be earning.” 

If the restraining order is extended, Del Mercado said the union would be prepared to strike in October if an agreement with BART isn’t reached by then. 

BART spokesman Mike Healy wasn’t immediately available for comment on Tuesday. 

The tentative agreement between BART and ATU and SEIU officials may include wage and pension increases of more than 20.5 percent over four years, according to Bob Smith, president of the ATU. 

“It’s not an overly generous proposal by the district,” he said, “but we’re satisfied.” 

Union members, who were prepared to walk off the job at midnight Wednesday, now are expected to vote on the new contract Sunday or Monday. 

The unions were seeking a 20.5 percent wage increase over three years, and BART was offering an 18.5 percent raise over four years. Smith would not say exactly how much higher than 20.5 percent the agreed-upon raise would be.