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Bay Area transit workers on strike after unions leave negotiations

Oct. 18, 2013 at 8:03 AM

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Bay Area Rapid Transit workers in the San Francisco-Oakland metro area went on strike early Friday, leaving hundreds of thousands of commuters scrambling.

Roxanne Sanchez, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, walked out of a marathon negotiation session Thursday afternoon, saying talks had broken off and union workers would strike at 12:01 a.m. Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"We made concessions, but you can only bend so far before you break," Sanchez said. "This is the way they want to solve the conflict, in a fight, a street fight."

Unions and BART management said the sides were close to an agreement on economic issues, but talks broke down over the transit agency's call for work rule changes.

The unions' position was that "we'll take more money but won't even talk to you about work rules," BART President Tom Radulovich said after the talks in Oakland ended. "We need to be able to manage the district."

The Chronicle said the "work rules" issue concerned a contract clause that refers to past practices and how changes could be made to the way things were done previously. To change a past practice, BART's contracts require mutual agreement between management and the unions.

BART officials said the clause prevents them from making technological changes or changes to the way it schedules workers or service. Union officials said keeping past practices can help prevent BART management from making punitive work assignments to employees who filed complaints.

A 60-day cooling-off period ordered by California Gov. Jerry Brown expired Sunday.

The San Jose Mercury News said transit agencies have backup plans, including BART running up to 200 shuttle buses. Caltrans, meanwhile, prepared to enforce all-day carpool hours on bridges and East Bay freeways.

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