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BART strike is over, tentative agreement reached

John Arantes of SEIU 1021 announcing that the October BART strike is over.

The BART strike is over and trains are running again after a four-day work stoppage. Unions, management, and local politicians announced a tentative agreement late Monday night.

After more than six months of negotiations and two strikes that infuriated workers, BART and its unions have a deal.

John Arantes, BART chapter president of SEIU 1021, said the strike was not about money.

“We apologize to our riders for the hardship you have experienced the past few days,” Arantes said. “We were able to stand up for workers’ rights, safety, and the the riders’ safety.”

Safety issues were thrown into sharp focus this weekend, when a BART train struck and killed two workers inspecting tracks near the Walnut Creek Station. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident, and said Monday that the person operating the train was undergoing training, but that the train was in an automatic mode.

BART staff had said it would train some managers with prior experience to run trains during a strike, although that never happened in this four-day strike. The union had repeatedly called the plan unsafe. BART is not commenting on the incident, per the NTSB's request.

“I don’t want it to be forgotten that two lives were lost during this time,” said ATU Local 1555 president Antonette Bryant. “And I want those families to be remembered, and I want them to know that we continue to extend our heartfelt condolences to them and their families.”

The two sides had agreed on wages and benefits last week, but talks broke down over work rule reform. BART general manager Grace Crunican held off on details about the agreement, saying it still needs approval from BART’s board and union members.

“I will simply say that this offer is more than we wanted to pay, but it is also a new path in terms of our partnership with our workers and helps us deliver the BART service for the future.”

Crunican added that both sides had made compromises.

About two hundred thousand people had to find another way to work during the strike, and many more were affected by the gridlock. People who depend on BART riders for business also suffered.

Eugene (who asked to go by his first name only) sells newspapers at BART stations.

“I went from making $300 a week to $5 a day. So this is a crushing, crushing blow to me,” he said on Monday. “I got maybe a week left, and if this goes beyond a week, I will be homeless and in a shelter.”

Lieutenant Governor and former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom talked briefly about the agreement, and said next time, the two parties can’t wait until the end of a contract to reach a deal.

“Mark my word, if there’s any lesson learned, it’s that this can never happen again,” Newsom said. “And I think there’s one aspect about this agreement --and you’ll hear more and more about it-- that sets the course for a kind of effort to begin to build some trust, to build the bridges, to deal with grievances so they don’t fester and they don’t stand out and create the kind of level of distrust that we’ve seen in this this organization in the last number of months."  

The tentative agreement still needs be passed by the unions’ membership and approved by the BART board of directors.