OAKLAND -- A federal mediator emerged early Tuesday from marathon talks between Bay Area Rapid Transit and its two major unions to say that talks would continue and that trains would run throughout the day.
The announcement, which came after 1 a.m., offered last-minute relief to the 200,000 round-trip weekday commuters who rely on the 104-mile regional commuter rail system. A regional business council estimated that a four-and-a-half day strike in July cost the region more than $300 million.
George Cohen, director of the federal mediation and conciliation service and an appointee of President Obama, left the talks at Oakland's Caltrans headquarters briefly to address the media. He had arrived Monday to join participants at the bargaining table.
"Under the auspices of our agency, the parties have been actively engaged in bargaining," he said. "The bargaining has produced some constructive and productive progress, and I am authorized to say the parties have agreed to continue negotiations through the night."
"I am authorized to say that trains will run" Tuesday, he added. He did not elaborate, and no new strike deadline appeared to have been set by labor leaders.
Cohen is one of three federal mediators present in the talks between BART management and the transit district's two main unions -- the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555.
He said all three would resume negotiations later Tuesday.
SEIU Local 1021 executive director Pete Castelli had said earlier in the evening that it would take a "Hail Mary" to avert a strike. However, late Monday night, the unions presented a counter-proposal to BART management's "last best and final" offer, and the teams got to work.
The unions had lashed out at BART management for placing a "final" offer on the table Sunday.