It's official: BART workers intend to go on strike again.
Last night, the unions gave their courtesy 72-hour strike notice after yet another night of failed labor talks. Although BART and its unions could still come up with a contract by Monday, best you start making other commute plans.
BART spokesman Rick Rice called the strike notice totally unnecessary.
"We are very disappointed and hope they reconsider their options," Rice said in a statement to the media. "A strike only stalls and delays the decisions that need to be made while using our riders as pawns. "
Union workers said they felt they had no choice but to call for another strike. "We can't negotiate or continue to negotiate against ourselves," said AFSCME Local President Patricia Schuchardt. "It takes two to negotiate."
Both sides said they would continue talking through the weekend in hopes of reaching some kind of deal by the Sunday deadline. Rice said BART will stay at the table as long as it takes to reach an agreement, even if it passes the Sunday deadline.
"Even if there isn't a deal in place by Sunday night, talks can be extended," Rice noted.
Initially, the union contract expired on June 30, and workers went on a four-day strike that crippled the Bay Area transportation system. More than 400,000 commuters were forced to the roads and ferries, creating a hellish commute for everyone.
A state mediator swooped in and both sides agreed to extent the contract another month while they continued sparring it out. This bought everyone a little time to cool off and start again. A month later, and the sticking points remain the exact same -- salaries, benefits, and healthcare.
"The District has responded to union leadership concerns with numerous concessions, while they have shown an unwillingness to bargain. They continue to insist on a 20-plus percent pay increase with no changes to health care and a small pension contribution," Rice said. "The future of the system depends on a more reasonable contract."
Unfortunately, if a strike does happen, the agency contractually cannot hire any replacement workers. So yeah, you're screwed.