Train strike clogs San Francisco-area highwaysOAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco Bay area transit workers are on strike for the second time since July, scrambling the morning commute for hundreds of thousands of workers who were up before dawn to clog highways, swarm buses and shiver on ferry decks as they found alternative ways to the office.
By: TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press, Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco Bay area transit workers are on strike for the second time since July, scrambling the morning commute for hundreds of thousands of workers who were up before dawn to clog highways, swarm buses and shiver on ferry decks as they found alternative ways to the office.
Six months of on-again, off-again negotiations have brought agreement on key issues such as raises, health care and pensions. But there remained a snarl Friday: a package of work rules involving when schedules are posted, whether workers can file for overtime when they've been out sick, and how paychecks are delivered.
The labor details were meaningless to Marsha Smith, who watched the sun rise as she rode toward her office in a crowded bus. Like many commuters Friday, Smith left her house while moon was still shone brightly to be sure to make it in on time.
"I am so tired. I am so frustrated and I'm so over it," the court records supervisor said.
At the West Oakland BART station, a frazzled Tatiana Marriott raced to board a free charter bus to San Francisco shortly after 6 a.m. She had to be at work by 7 a.m.
"I probably should've gotten up a half-hour earlier," said Marriott, 21, a seamstress, conceding that she would be late for work.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit system carries about 400,000 workers a day through tunnels under the bay and into the region's urban core of San Francisco from four surrounding counties, relieving what would otherwise be congested bridges.
In an effort to alleviate delays, many of the Bay Area's other 27 transit systems added bus, ferry and rail service Friday. Carpools and rideshare programs were also busy, and more cyclists took the streets.
But traffic was sluggish all morning, and lines at bridge toll plazas were backed up for miles.
Passengers touching down at San Francisco International Airport were warned that trains weren't running, and it could take twice as long to get into the city.
Many simply avoided the hassle, telecommuting instead.
The strike could drag through the weekend and into next work week. BART spokesman Rick Rice said Friday that no new talks have been scheduled, and representatives from the unions were meeting and didn't immediately return calls from The Associated Press.
Discussions fell apart late Thursday after a marathon 30-hour negotiation with a federal mediator that put representatives from both sides at dueling press conferences, rumpled, unshaven and angry.
Talks started in April, two months before the June 30 contract expirations, but both sides were far apart. The unions initially asked for 23.2 percent in raises over three years. BART countered with a four-year contract with 1 percent raises contingent on the agency meeting economic goals.
The unions contended that members made $100 million in concessions when they agreed to a deal in 2009 as BART faced a $310 million deficit. And they said they wanted their members to get their share of a $125 million operating surplus produced through increased ridership.
But the transit agency countered that it needed to control costs to help pay for new rail cars and other improvements.
Rice said general manager Grace Crunican and the board have not heard back from the unions to try and continue discussions. While the unions say the strike is solely over work rules, BART officials say the unions still seek a nearly 16 percent wage increase over four years compared to BART's offer of 12 percent.
The unions said they have agreed to pay into their pensions and health care.
"We'll meet as soon as possible, we're certainly willing to do as much as we can as quick as we can," Rice said. "But that starts with all of us getting back to discussions."
Waiting for a ferry in Oakland, retail worker Mary Nelson said both sides should be able to come to an agreement.
"I don't understand why they're holding a lot of hardworking people hostage," she said.