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Phil Matier: BART Strike Authorization Vote Comes Amid Accusations

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Fare gates at the Embarcadero BART Station in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Fare gates at the Embarcadero BART Station in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PhilMatier01-370 Phil Matier
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Bay Area Rapid Transit workers plan to vote on Tuesday whether or not to authorize strike while both labor and management continue to trade accusations as to why they are unable to reach an agreement over the contract.

But commuters want to know if there is a plan if things don’t work out. While BART might rent some buses and the Metropolitan Transit Commission is trying to come up with some options, the short answer to that question is no.

This is going to be real tough one because the way the other agencies are set up whether it’s the ferry system, the bus system or even Caltrain on the peninsula—they simply don’t have the capacity to pick up the slack.

The last time BART went on strike, in 1997, there were 250,000 daily riders but now there are nearly 400,000 and the commuting pattern has also changed. Commuters can get to from the East Bay to San Francisco using AC Transit and the Ferries but area from Bay Point to San Jose is wide open so other transit agencies may get involved to get something done.

And then there is the question of money and political will.

Will politicians step in also step in as they did in 1997? The difference now is that back then, there were people like Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, Don Perata, and others to knock some heads. I don’t think there are people with the clout and the stature to get the unions to the table this time.

Now BART is asking the unions for 72-hour notice should they vote on a strike and that decision will probably be released early Wednesday morning. The unions, however, haven’t committed to BART’s requests but it’s likely that they want to avoid a public relations flap. I think riders will get a three day heads-up.

And as for the public, they were initially told the unions’ grievances were about safety and budget cuts but since then, it’s come down to pension and pay. The last time there were contract negotiations, when it came down to the wire, the public was definitely against public employees and the pensions. We will see within the next few days how the message sells this time.

The public is all for you until it doesn’t work out for the public and then they are against you. If the unions go on strike, it’s not going to make anyone happy.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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