As BART Strike in California Stretches into July 4th Holiday, Talks Resume

BART has announced it will run limited charter buses Thursday and Friday for the Independence Day holiday.

Some commuters' fireworks plans might have to change in the San Francisco Bay Area as managers and workers within the region's main public transit system, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), can't seem to reach an agreement. Demanding higher wages and better working conditions, BART unions went on strike four days ago. Their contract expired on Sunday, causing three months' worth of unsuccessful negotiations to come to a standstill.

Talks resumed Wednesday between BART management and its two largest unions. The two parties negotiated late into the night, but once again failed to strike a deal. Talks are scheduled to continue at 11 a.m. today. 

As AlterNet's Alyssa Figueroa reported in her article "7 Key Things You Need to Know About the BART Strike in California," BART workers have not had a pay increase in four years, and are demanding a 4.5 percent annual raise over the next three years. The money is there, but BART officials have proposed a two percent annual increase over the next four years, which would ultimately cut workers' net pay. 

The Internet has been awash with misinformation and frustration over the strike, and major Bay Area media outlets have portrayed the strikers as greedy. The San Francisco Chronicle ran the headline, "Bart Workers Overplay Their Hand," noting that wokers' current salary of over $60,000 with benefits and overtime, "doesn’t sound so bad," and doesn't evoke public sympathy.The Contra Costa Times called the workers "out of touch with financial reality," writing:  "They're already the top-paid transit system employees in the region and among the best in the nation. They also have free pensions, health care coverage for their entire family for just $92 a month and the same sweet medical insurance deal when they retire after just five years on the job.

The last time BART workers went on strike was in 1997, and the system is the main method by which commuters travel across the San Francisco Bay from the East Bay to San Francisco. As a result of the strike the line to the toll plaza where cars enter the Bay Bridget to San Francisco has people waiting more than two hours in bottlenecked traffic.  According to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), 132,295 motorists crossed the Bay Bridge tolls on Tuesday, up from Monday's number of 128,065. Comparatively, on a pre-strike Monday in June only 125,892 motorists crossed the toll, MTC officials told CBS Local.

Also according to CBS, "regular casual carpoolers say they have noticed many more people at pick-up points in San Francisco and in the East Bay."

San Bruno Patch reports Caltrain—a commuter rail that runs between San Francisco, San Mateo, and San Bruno counties—is preparing for an overload due to the BART strike during the holiday.  Bay City News reported Tuesday morning that commuters were already been flocking to Caltrain this week, filling shuttles to capacity. Agency officials told Bay City News that preliminary estimates that indicate Caltrain has been accommodating as many as 3,000 additional riders during each peak commute period since the strike began on Monday.

Since an agreement was not reached in time for the July 4th holiday, BART has announced it will run limited charter busses Thursday and Friday, provided by the transit agency, AC Transit, for service to San Francisco from the West Oakland, El Cerrito del Norte, Walnut Creek, Freemont, and Dublin/Pleasanton stations. The extra service comes as the system anticipates more people attending Major League Baseball games, America’s Cup yacht races, fireworks shows and other events throughout the Bay Area.The transit system will run on its Sunday schedule and add an additional 11 buses to run at twice the frequency on Thursday, according to CBS

April M. Short is a yoga teacher and writer who previously worked as AlterNet's drugs and health editor. She currently edits part-time for AlterNet, and freelances for a number of publications nationwide.

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