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No BART strike – for now

By Jeffrey Obser Daily Planet correspondent
Thursday September 06, 2001

A San Francisco Superior Court judge extended a strike injunction on one of BART’s three unions Wednesday morning, easing the specter of a Bay Area transit crisis for at least another six weeks. 

The transit agency and its two other employee unions had already reached a tentative four-year contract on Tuesday, after days of tense negotiation, threatened strike deadlines and intervention by elected officials.  

“It gives us a little breathing room,” said BART spokesman Mike Healy. 

However, if negotiations fail and one BART union eventually strikes, the remaining two are likely to follow suit. 

Judge James Robertson extended a restraining order against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3993 until Oct. 15. AFSCME, which represents BART’s middle-management and supervisory positions, is negotiating over issues such as pay parity and the protection of union members. 

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and the Service Employees International Union Local 790 sought pay increases for BART employees totaling 20.5 percent over three years, while BART had offered 18.5 percent over four years. The settlement, which will be put to a union membership vote Tuesday, calls for a total of 22 percent in wage and pension raises over four years, with 6 percent the first, 5 percent in the second and third, and 6 percent in the fourth year. 

At a press conference in downtown Oakland Wednesday, Larry Hendel, East Bay staff director for SEIU Local 790, said the tentative contract will grant employees a holiday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day starting in the second year. 

Hendel expressed confidence that the membership would approve the contract. “The feedback I’m getting is really positive,” he said. 

However, Hendel and Bob Smith, the SEIU local president, also at the conference, affirmed solidarity with AFSCME in its own negotiating efforts. 

“If any AFl-CIO union is going on strike, we’ll honor their picket lines,” Hendel said. 

“We’ll be back at the table with AFSCME and working hard to get an agreement between now and the new deadline,” said Healy, the BART spokesperson. Asked if BART riders were out of the woods, he said: “Not until we get an agreement.”