BART trains halt when workers walk off job


There were crowded roads and longer lines for buses and ferries, but rush hour did not come to a standstill as many had feared.

Two of BART's largest unions went on strike just after midnight after failing to agree on a new contract. No negotiation meetings have been scheduled yet for Monday.

"A strike is always the last resort and we have done everything in our power to avoid it," said Josie Mooney, a negotiator for Service Employees International Union Local 1021.

Key sticking points in the negotiations have been salary, pensions, health care and safety. BART workers want a five-percent pay hike each year for three years, plus a two-percent cost of living increase each of those years. BART officials have offered a pay raise amounting to more than 8 percent over four years. The union says it will pay half a percent toward its pension, which is now fully funded by BART.

BART said train operators and station agents in the unions average about $71,000 in base salary and $11,000 in overtime annually. The workers also pay a flat $92 monthly fee for health insurance.

More than 400,000 riders use BART, the nation's fifth-largest rail system.

"It's pretty crazy," said Young Choi, 34. "It's creating a pretty chaotic feeling in terms of the commute situation."

Choi, an architect in San Francisco's financial district, got dropped off by a friend in Berkeley from Walnut Creek around 6:30 a.m. so he could catch a bus after hearing about the strike.

Alejandro Illidj, 20, woke up two hours earlier than usual to get to his job at Nordstrom in San Francisco, but he had to wait for a bus with room to accommodate him.

"More power to the unions, but at the end of the day, how are we supposed to get to work?" said Illidj, a University of California, Berkeley student.

BART's last strike lasted six days in 1997.

KGO-TV and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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