BART strike enters fourth day as probe begins into fatal accident

No talks scheduled to resolve strike; workers mourn two colleagues killed in a track accident on Saturday

Mourners honor the memory of two workers who were killed during a train accident in Walnut Creek, Calif. on Sunday.
Eric Slomanson/AP Photo

San Francisco faced another day without its commuter-rail system Monday, with no negotiations scheduled to resolve railway employees' strike and workers still reeling from an accident that left two of their colleagues dead.

The strike against Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which moves about 400,000 people a day, began on Friday after contract negotiations between management and union officials broke down over pay and workplace rules.

With no talks scheduled, the walkout by more than 2,000 workers is expected to snarl traffic as the city returns to work this week.

Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1555, said on Sunday that her union would put the latest contract offer to a vote but predicted it would result in a "resounding no," the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"BART has left us no choice but to reject their final offer," said Bryant, standing before a crowd of union members who wore purple shirts reading "We make BART work."

The vote would not be scheduled until later in the week, the newspaper said.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021 said late on Sunday that it delivered to management a "new counterproposal" that offered flexibility on rules governing workplace technology, but it declined to offer details. The major unions and management could be reached for comment.

BART's board of directors is set to meet in Oakland on Monday afternoon to discuss the talks with the transit system's general manager and its labor-negotiations team.

The two workers killed on Saturday were a BART employee and a contractor, BART officials said. One of the workers belonged to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3993, which is not on strike.

They were checking a possible dip in the track just north of a station in suburban Walnut Creek when a BART train functioning on automatic control, with an operator inside, struck and killed them, the agency said in a statement.

The National Transportation Safety Board began an investigation of the incident on Sunday, NTSB chief investigator Jim Southworth told a news conference. He said it would take four to 10 days to complete the investigation.

Southworth did not release the identities of those involved in the accident and would not confirm whether a BART manager was operating the train.

Roughly 60 people in dark clothing, some wearing work uniforms, gathered at the Lake Merritt BART station in downtown Oakland on Sunday for a candlelight vigil honoring the dead workers.

"It's a huge loss for the BART family," said Patricia Schuchardt, president of AFSCME Local 3993.

AFSCME, with 220 middle-management BART employees, has not called a strike, but most of its members have walked off the job in support of SEIU and ATU strikers, Schuchardt said.

The BART walkout is the second this year, after unionized workers went on strike for nearly five days days in July. They ended that strike and resumed negotiations, but the unions and management have since been unable to reach a deal.


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