October 23, 2013

San Francisco transit union workers agree to contract

After two strikes and two deaths, the trains are running again.

The Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — It took months of tortured talks, two strikes and the deaths of two workers for San Francisco’s transit rail workers and their employer to finally agree on a contract that got trains running again Tuesday.

The saga left commuters fuming and both sides bruised. A state lawmaker is considering introducing a bill that would ban public transit strikes, an idea seemingly anathema to a Democrat-controlled Legislature friendly to unions but perhaps a possibility because of the anger over the strike.

The tentative agreement between unions and Bay Area Rapid Transit came together quickly late Monday, just two days after a pair of transit workers were killed by a train operated by a BART employee being trained. The deaths shook both sides and helped get them back to a negotiating table they had deserted Friday.

The accident made it “more difficult for BART management to maintain a very hard line and not accept any kind of compromise,” said John Logan, an invited observer to the bargaining sessions who is director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University.

Logan added that the unions “did not want this strike to go on and did not see it as in their interest,” partly because the public seemed to be blaming workers rather than management for the disruption to their lives.

Negotiations began in April, but there was little progress and two strikes followed, the first in July.

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