By Phil Matier

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Amid the tense BART talks behind closed doors, both sides are trying to appeal to the public a day after workers voted to authorize a strike.

We’re even starting to hear spots on the radio from the union side and I think it’s both posturing and the high potential for a work stoppage come Monday.

On one hand, the posturing has been hard and heavy. It seems every time we have a BART negotiation, this seems to happen.

Management raises questions about how much station agents and other employees make. There are questions about overtime and the comparison of benefits to the private sector.

But the union counters with how long it’s been since they received a pay raise as well as their safety concerns in the workplace (something BART’s customers seem to be very concerned about).

Both sides play to the public because ultimately the public is like the board of directors in a transit agency like this. The more uncomfortable the public is the quicker the chance is that it’s going to get settled.

In a situation like this there is often talk of other transit agencies picking up the slack in the event of a strike, but the reality is they simply can’t.

Take AC Transit for instance. They bus about 14,000 commuters a day over the Bay Bridge. They’re an alternate to BART, but they are in the midst of labor negotiations involving the same unions as the BART contract talks and have also voted to authorize a strike.

On a practical level AC Transit simply can’t order up all its operators overnight to start working overtime and commission extra buses if a strike by BART is called. Not to mention the East Bay corridor from Fremont to San Jose is a growing commute.

Caltrain along the Peninsula is running at max meaning that you can’t just add trains to the schedule on a last minute’s notice. Meanwhile, ferry service is heavily subsidized and half empty, but I don’t think you can get too many more boats out there.

BART unions said they would give 72-hours notice if they do strike, but with the Fourth of July holiday weekend coming, I’m not sure we’ll see a strike as soon as Monday.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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