The governor indicated he would seek a 60-day cooling-off period on Friday, as union leaders warned commuters that they were prepared to strike and shut down BART today for the second time this summer if they didn’t reach an agreement on a new contract over the weekend.
The unions went on strike last month, stopping BART service for four days. The shutdown snarled traffic on roadways and left commuters facing long lines for buses and ferries.
BART, the nation’s fifth largest rail system, serves more than 400,000 commuters each weekday.
Sandy Zhou, 22, said her 40-minute commute on BART to work at a San Francisco Metro PCS store turned into a three-hour ordeal by bus during the strike. She applauded the reprieve.
“As long as it keeps the trains running, do whatever you have to do,” she said. “I’m all for higher wages, but I need to get to work.”
Negotiations between BART and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 began months ago, but the two sides remained tens of millions of dollars apart on wages, pensions and health care benefits last week.
BART said workers from the two unions now average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers pay nothing toward their pensions and pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.
The unions were set to go on strike again on Aug. 5 when Brown intervened and appointed a panel to investigate the labor dispute. He issued the request for the cooling-off period after the panel concluded a strike would significantly harm public welfare.