SAN FRANCISCO--A threatened midnight strike that would have shut down the Bay Area Rapid Transit system was averted late Sunday when Gov. Jerry Brown called for an investigation into the labor dispute.
The governor's action prohibits a strike or lockout during the investigation. Brown also announced that he has appointed a three-member board to examine the threatened strike and to report to him in seven days.
The two sides met in a marathon session Sunday as officials tried to head off a midnight transit strike by BART workers that officials feared could cause a traffic nightmare in the Bay Area.
A 4 ½ day strike in June swamped the region, despite emergency measures such as added bus and ferry service and an increase in commuters turning to casual carpooling.
BART trains carry an estimated 400,000 passengers each day
Even though mediators from the state and federal government have been at the table, the last month has produced little more than acrimony between the two largest employee unions and BART management.
After unions representing the majority of BART workers issued a 72-hour notice of intent to strike late Thursday, state labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern joined San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to call for an end to the uncertainty
Lee said that over the last month he had spoken to numerous workers at hotels, coffee shops and restaurants, as well as to owners of small businesses, all of whom were concerned about the suffering that another strike would cause them.
"I couldn't even get a burrito without confronting someone who asked that we take our stand on behalf of the public," Lee told reporters. "We need an agreement and not a strike in our public transit system. The public ridership … need a voice at this table."
Lee said a strike would hit lower-income families hardest — those trying to get to more than one job who cannot afford the cost of high-priced parking garages. He wanted "to put a face on the ridership … we need an agreement."
The unions have insisted that they don't want to strike.
"Our team is giving it our best shot. We really do not want to disrupt service Monday," the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 told the Associated Press. "We want a deal. We will do whatever it takes."
After making a series of concessions in a down economy in recent years, Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 have pressed for raises that exceed 20% over three years.
BART management has countered with a proposed 8% raise over four years. But the agency also has asked workers, who earn a median salary of about $80,000, to contribute to their pensions. BART employees currently pay nothing into the pension system. Workers also are being asked to increase their healthcare contribution from the current flat rate of $92 per month.
Union leaders have lambasted management for being at the table for only about half of the last four weeks because of vacations.