OAKLAND (CBS SF) – With less than 72 hours remaining before another potential BART strike on Monday morning, union leaders urged the transit agency’s board of directors to take a more active role in contract talks Friday.
Leah Berlanga, a negotiator for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, was one of many union members who spoke to BART board members at a special meeting of the directors in Oakland this morning.
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“This is not the time to take a back seat,” Berlanga said.
She told the directors to “take this a little more seriously” and said they should come to the ongoing contract talks “so you can see if things are moving.”
Veteran BART Board member James Fang said Thursday that the negotiations to date are the worst he has seen during his tenure.
“They’re just talking at each other,” said Fang. “I don’t know how much give and take there is…it’s just not fluid. There is no communication.”
Fang said the BART Board’s participation couldn’t hurt.
Leaders of SEIU Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers, notified BART management on Thursday night that their members will go on strike on Monday morning if an agreement isn’t reached before their contract expires at the end of Sunday.
Berlanga told the board, “We do not want to go on strike – that’s the last resort for us.”
Des Patten, president of the BART professional chapter of SEIU Local 1021, said negotiators have “made progress” on supplemental issues because the unions have had a good dialogue with BART negotiator Bruce Cohen.
But Patten said, “That’s just not happening on the general issues” at the heart of the labor dispute, which are wages, pension contributions, health care contributions and worker safety.
Patten blamed the stalemate on Thomas Hock, BART management’s negotiator on those issues, alleging that Hock doesn’t engage in meaningful dialogue and merely says that he doesn’t like the unions’ contract proposals but doesn’t explain why.
After union members finished speaking during the public comment section of the board’s meeting, directors went into closed session to provide direction to management and its negotiators on how to proceed in contract talks.