Bay Area residents avoided a commuting nightmare when BART's management and leaders of its second-largest union announced tonight that they've reached a tentative agreement that averts a strike that had been set to begin Monday morning.
BART Board President Thomas Blalock and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 President Jesse Hunt were joined by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and other elected officials when they
delivered the good news for commuters shortly before 7 p.m. outside the site at 22nd Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland where negotiations have been going on since April 1.
"The big winners here are the people who live around the Bay Area," Newsom said. "Tomorrow will be like any other day for commuters."
However, Newsom warned that, "This is only a tentative agreement and there will be outstanding work and a membership vote."
Hunt, whose union represents 900 train operators, station agents and power workers, said he will recommend that his members approve the agreement, saying it is "much more equitable" than a previous tentative agreement with management that his members rejected by a two-to-one margin last Monday.
Hunt said, "There are no guarantees in life," but he is "confident" his members will approve the tentative pact because he thinks it is "a solid agreement."
He said the vote probably will take place early next week, although a date hasn't yet been set.
Two other BART unions voted last week to approve management's contract offer but their leaders said they would have respected picket lines if ATU Local 1555 had gone on strike.
Those unions are the BART chapter of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the transit agency's largest union, which represents about 1,500 mechanics, custodians, safety inspects and clerical employees, and American Federation of Local, State and Municipal Employees Union Local 3993, which represents about 200 middle managers.
Blalock said he didn't want to disclose the details of the tentative agreement because ATU Local 1555's members haven't been told the details yet.
However, BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said it eliminates work rules that management believes are inefficient and costly and achieves $100 million in labor costs savings to help the transit agency cope with its
large budget deficit, which it estimates to be $310 million over the next four years.
Hunt, who had hoped that the new contract would only be for two years, said the agreement calls for a four-year contract, which has been the standard length of BART union contracts for many years.
BART labor contracts expire on June 30 every four years but there wasn't an agreement by that date this year, which also has been the case in most other labor negotiations over the years.
Dugger said, "I'm not satisfied" that an agreement came late again this year and admitted "we still have some improvements to make" in reaching agreements in a more timely fashion.
She said, "We regret the inconvenience and the uncertainty we created for the public but at least there will be uninterrupted service."
Hunt said, "We regret it (an agreement) had to come about this way but said he's also happy that service won't be disrupted.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement, "I applaud both Amalgamated Transit Union and BART for working through their differences and reaching an agreement before immensely impacting Bay Area commuters with a
He said, "With this agreement, the hundreds of thousands of Californians that rely on the services BART provides will be able to continue to conduct their everyday business without interruption. I commend both sides
for coming to a resolution."