After forgoing pay raises for five years and making $100 million in concessions four years ago to help the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system through rough economic times, about 2,500 BART workers are on the picket lines throughout the San Francisco Bay area after their contracts expired at 12:01 a.m. PDT today.
Workers also say BART did not respond to a number of their safety concerns for both workers and riders.
Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1555, which represents 945 train operators and station agents, told reporters:
Our members aren't interested in disrupting the Bay Area, but management has put us in a position where we have no choice.
The other major group of BART workers are the more than 1,400 mechanics, maintenance workers and staff represented by SEIU Local 1021.
Union officials said that while BART claims its last contract offer contained pay increases, they were contingent on unrealistic and unlikely to be achieved ridership, tax revenue and other projections. Said Bryant:
On the surface it looks like a raise. But it's not really a raise. It certainly leaves us in the red—3 to 4 percent lower than our wages now.