Roxanne Sanchez, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, ended a 30-hour bargaining session in Oakland, Calif., Thursday and announced the negotiations had failed. Transit system workers went on strike at 12:01 a.m Friday.
"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."
Both sides said a deal had been close, but that talks broke down over management's push for a change in work rules.
Managers accused the union of adopting a position of "we'll take more money but won't even talk to you about work rules," said Tom Radulovich, president of BART's Board of Directors. "We need to be able to manage the district."
BART's management said the goal of the "work rules" change, required in order to alter past practices, would allow station agents to file emailed reports rather than write them out by hand, or sending them by fax machines. But such changes also allow one-time schedule expansions, for holiday or special event service, to get repeated the next year even if the even itself doesn't occur again.
For the workers, these changes are tantamount to giving up their rights.
"They offered us a poison pill, trade your paycheck for your rights," said Peter Castelli, executive director of the SEIU local.
The strike, the second this year, affects the more than 200,000 people who use the system to travel around the San Francisco Bay region each day.
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